Keshav emerged out of the laboratory ecstatic at the success of the special creation… he was so overwhelmed when the lead scientist declared the final results, that he almost cried. He conveyed a mental thank you to Dnyaneshwar Rane and immediately walked towards his cabin to take out his cell phone to call Avanti with the good news. He knew she would be on tenterhooks as well… and had taken refuge in music. That was his Avanti… beneath that tough veneer there was this nervous as hell soft woman, but he read her like an open book just like she did him. She knew exactly what he wanted just like that last night rendezvous in bed. She had shed her demure inhibitions and in its place was his greedy vixen who sucked him dry… he chuckled as he grew hard and immediately looked around hoping no one saw the sudden tightening of his trousers right there… he had to rein it in. He was acting like a teenager getting hard at the sight of nude women on some stashed away adult book covers or after watching porn in secret. He rubbed his face and used his key to open the drawer to remove his cell phone. But it wasn’t lighting up… what the fuck… did the battery die…? He immediately placed it for charging but of no avail… did the instrument decide to conk off at this crucial juncture…? No…
Right then Akshat walked in. “hello Keshav sir… I got your original phone… you can put back the SIM card in it and start using…My guy has restored all the saved documents. And there is something I have to tell you…”
As Akshat helped him change the SIM he continued… “…Uh…Keshav sir… I dug deeper into Narendranath’s fourth son. Everything else points towards him… He had the motive and the need to make it big to go against his family. I even found he had made an attempt on his brother’s life years ago just because the guy had ratted him out to their father and he was thrown out of the share in business…” He handed over the phone to Keshav which now buzzed with message alerts. He saw three messaged from Avanti… she must be definitely checking out the status. He looked up as he missed what Akshat just said.
“…I beg your pardon… what did you just say…?”
“…Sir… that fourth son is the one whom you and Rane sir had put behind bars with the complete support of his family… he is out on parole now after five years. He had apparently changed his appearance so that no one from his past recognised him…”
“…So, you mean he is around us… committing all these crimes…?” His blood boiled to think of that slime. The bastard killed Dnyaneshwar Rane and attempted to do so the same to Avanti…? “…what’s his name…? Prem something… Narendranath Sisodia’s fourth son…” He tried hard to recall the name.
“…Its Premnath Sisodia, Sir…and I caught hold of one of his two-bit cronies… the man now goes by the name…Parminder…”
Wait… where had he heard the name…? Oh yes… Rohini’s boyfriend… He was there at Kamya’s roka too but at that time he had been furious and his vision had clouded by anger… He immediately checked Avanti’s texts with trembling hands.
‘Hey… I hope all’s fine… I got a call from Silas hospital…they want some of your reports for the upcoming clinical trials. Their team of doctors got specially for the purpose are going away… I need to give them the reports before 4PM…’
What on earth…? Silas hospital…? Since when were they involved in anything…? He dialled Avanti but she didn’t answer.
“…FUCK…FUCK…FUCK…” he yelled, startling Akshat. “…Akshat something is wrong… call Dr. Mehta from Silas… he knows me. Just check whether someone from their hospital called Avanti today afternoon… about a couple of hours ago…”
Akshat nodded and went ahead with the call while he called Avanti again in vain. His heart in his throat now, he then checked the other messages.
‘I am on my way home in the cab and don’t worry dear… Rahul is with me…I will drop the reports and call you… hope your phone will be reachable by then.’
He rubbed his face… something was terribly wrong but there was a bit of solace since Rahul was with her. Why the hell was his phone not working? He looked at the drawer and saw the chipped wood near the lock… he asked Akshat to check the security footage and was shocked to see Mr. Mukherjee exit the cabin in a hurry… what the fuck…? Akshat immediately called his man on standby to catch hold of the old man. Keshav was blank and just called Rahul but his phone was switched off… His heart fell now and he had never known fear could take such magnitude of proportions, as his hands trembled after months. He was angry at himself… how could he be so careless… he shouldn’t have let her go out of sight. He knew what the bastard wanted and he would give it to him willingly if he would get Avanti back safe and sound. He took out a folder from the locker and the black book as well. Akshat knew what was happening as realisation dawned on him and Keshav devised a plan. No matter what, he had to get back Avanti safe… that’s all mattered now.
Akshat got off the call from Dr. Mehta who had reverted. “Keshav sir… there was no call made from Silas hospital… that means…”
Akshat didn’t have to say anything more. Keshav already knew it. “…Akshat… call the cops and inform your guys in the building to be ready but no one should take matters into their hands… got it…?”
“…Fine Keshav sir… I have already texted the head of security… and he is making the arrangements… but are you sure about this…?” Akshat pointed at the folder and black book.
“…Yes… yes I am… there is no time to waste… what’s the GPS status…?” He was glad Avanti’s phone had the GPS tracker recently linked to his phone and Akshat could keep track of both their locations. He had made this arrangement till the intruder was caught.
“…Sir…she is right in the house…”
“…then let’s hurry before that lunatic goes overboard…”
They travelled at full throttle breaking all traffic norms, a car journey had never been more arduous. He blinked back tears as he thought of possible outcomes…his rational mind not at all functional. He couldn’t afford to lose Avanti…couldn’t afford to lose her smile, the sight of her beautiful kohl rimmed eyes, the priceless camaraderie that he had with no one else, couldn’t afford to lose his soul mate who loved him unconditionally, Huntington’s or not…he just couldn’t lose it all. She meant just everything in his life…
“Par…Parminder…?” Avanti whispered, heart thudding overtime. “…how did you…? Silas hospital…?”
“…oh it was easy to find a willing patient to make that call… just cost me a thousand bucks you see…made it authentic…” He chuckled
Avanti gasped as the shock penetrated her her body gripping her chest tight. “…Parminder…” She could only take his name.
“…well…its Premnath… Premnath Sisodia… ring a bell…dear Avanti Dnyaneshwar Rane…?”
Why did the name sound familiar…? She tried racking her brains clouded with anxiety. And then it struck her like lightening. Her father had been furious about a buyout offer from an old friends’ son years ago. He had investigated the man and found him to be a crook of the greatest order and the worst was this man had tried to sabotage his own family business. Her father and Keshav had caught him on time and that had opened a pandora’s box with more skeletons falling from his closet. Many witnesses came forward with their complaints as to how he had fleeced them of their fortunes. He was eventually arrested and was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment since his family totally disowned him. But not before her father had almost fallen sick with the mental turmoil the investigation had caused. She had overheard the name umpteen times whenever her father spoke over phone in his study. She shuddered… Did he now want revenge…?
“looks like father’s little princess does remember after all… your father… and that bloody husband… they ruined my life…” He started to walk closer and she moved backwards. There was no way she could run without being stabbed or shot, if he had a gun. she had to keep him talking.
“…but what did Keshav do…? And Baba is no more…” she wailed.
She looked around the room subtly as the man chuckled lightly. Her eyes fell on the walkie-talkie behind the row of books. She had kept it for charging and had forgotten to keep it in her cupboard after disconnecting the wire. God was great indeed… And she moved towards that wall gradually. Since it wasn’t the exit he didn’t care as he continued in his forlorn tone. She halted as she stood before the instrument and pretended to hold the showcase stand for support while he looked at the exit for a moment, she gently pressed the button of the walkie-talkie. “…Wait… you… you killed my baba…?” She knew the answer but she had to get it out the horse’s mouth. She was sure he didn’t see her subtle movements given his visual deficit else he would have caught her by now.
His maniacal laughter filled the room. “…oh my… the princess took so long to figure it out, did she…? It was payback time… five years Avanti… five bloody years in that hell hole… do you even know what it’s like…?”
“…but it was your faulty as well… wasn’t it…?” she had heard the faint crackling of the walkie-talkie and knew Mr. D’Souza was hearing her and hopefully Rahul wouldn’t do anything rash. “…and my husband…he only aided my father… but your family was the one who did you in…” She stressed on the word hoping the listeners at the other end would get an idea.
“…My family will soon be paying… there will be retribution on their part as well… but before that I need my trump card… I have worked hard to get here and I am not letting it go down the drain…”
“…what about Rohini… what was her fault in all this…?” She remembered Rohini telling her about the glasses to be replaced which meant she had hit him and broken his glasses the other day and that’s why he had stumbled.
“…oh, that dimwit woman… it was so easy to lure her into my web… I am the arachnid whom you can’t escape, you see…” he chuckled again, the sound piercing her heart as she tried to calm herself down. She hoped her plan worked.
“…How…did you know I would be here… or even the other day…We have checked there are no bugs around to record our conversations…” She stressed on the word and sincerely hoped the message got conveyed across.
He laughed again and she realised, stroking his ego would definitely stall the megalomaniac before her. “oh, my dear Avanti… you like Rohini are indeed so dumb… how do the shrewd Goyal men fall for the likes of you…? Do you think I would place bugs here when I know Keshav got the place swiped regularly…? I had a better plan you see…I had an informant right in your camp…”
Now that made sense… the timing was almost perfect and she was alone too. “Who… who gave you the information…? Were you there near Kune falls the other day…? Did you shoot at me…?”
“…Oh, ho ho…. So many questions dear… well I am glad to answer. We have time to kill anyway till that husband of yours comes in with what I want…” He started coming closer and she was scared he would see the instrument behind her. She had to divert his attention away. She walked towards the nearby couch and straightened the cover even as the guard’s legs from beneath stared at her.
Suddenly it struck her… Prantik was feared dead…and given the people who knew her whereabouts in Vedshastra there was only one other person besides Rahul and Keshav so it meant… “…Wait… Mukherjee uncle…? Did he pass on the information…?”
“…oh, you aren’t an idiot after all. Yes it was him… it as easy to manipulate the old man using his nephew as bait…the moronic nephew whom I disposed of almost a month ago but you know what Avanti…? Senior Mukherjee too was becoming a liability to me… so today was his last bit of information…In fact he even told me Keshav’s phone isn’t working today…He set it up… so you see fortune has favoured me all the way… The oldie will reach home for a wild surprise…he will open the door and then boom…” he gestured to simulate an explosion and Avanti’s heart caught in her throat.
“…you killed Prantik…?” she couldn’t even look at the man in the eye as fear gripped her throat.
“…not just Prantik… that stupid man Shamsunder Valmiki too… both pieces of crap and nothing more. One a druggie who lived off his uncle and the other a bit too greedy… I could leave them right…? I like to clean up after me but then…that day in Kune… you turned up…”
“…So, you shot at me…I could have died that day… wasn’t killing my baba enough…?” she squeaked, her voice barely audible.
“… hold on Avanti… if you remember Rohini had mentioned I am an athlete… well I am a pro at rifle ranges… I couldn’t pursue it as a career because it didn’t generate money… but I am very good…If I wanted to kill you that day I could have but then it wouldn’t have been of any use to me… I just scared you off…but then you know now, I can go to any lengths…” his soft chuckle gave her the goosebumps.
“…what is it you want now…? Do you want to ki…kill me as well…?”
“…oh, give me a break Avanti…I am not a mass murderer… even that man lying down there is just unconscious… and he knows not to act smart with me…even if he wakes up soon…”
“…so, what is it…then…? what are you after…?”
“…Of course, the formula…from your father’s prised black book… I tried my level best to extract it by various means… do you even know the amount I have spent looking for it…? That foolish Shamsunder was to retrieve it for me before your father died… but the bloody fool didn’t… I then had to even humour that stupid sister of yours who thinks the director is going to tie the knot with her… He is an acquaintance who was using her to pry information from you and I had convinced her to sell Vedshastra to my buyer… this would have been good then… all this wouldn’t have happened… but you my dear…had to refuse… just because of your husband…”
“…You arm-twisted Arpita…? No wonder she was suddenly interested in selling Vedshastra…” Avanti was furious.
“…stop the melodrama Avanti… I am now all set to claim my due from my wretched family… I need the formula for that and you… my dear… you are my hostage now…and we wait for that husband of yours to make his entry… I know by now he must have realised what has happened…”
“…how… how did you manage to escape the security…?”
“…oh God…don’t insult my abilities Avanti… who would stop an old frail delivery man trying to work in his geriatric state…?” He laughed ending in a continuous flow of cough and she could hear him wheeze… She had to keep him engaged.
“…Why do you need the formula… you aren’t any scientist or bio-chemist…?”
“…I am going to sell it to the highest bidder…the pharmaceutical world is a vast ocean and all I need is a jug of water from that… that’s it… it will set me for life as I take the ownership of my family owned company which is loss making anyway… I have it all well planned… that stupid Rohini has pledged a couple of crores for my investment… at least she is useful in some way…”
“…you are pathetic Mr. Sisodia… crime will never bring you success…”
“…enough of the righteous crap Avanti and while there is still time for your saviour to make his way so why don’t you serve me some lunch…the least you can do for all the trouble caused…”
What? Was he insane…? But in a way it was buying her time. She knew he needed the formula and while he ate, she could think of something. She had to save Keshav and since Rahul hadn’t made an appearance as yet meant he was definitely with the D’Souzas.
She served him the lunch prepared by Mrs. Sinha while he still had the knife blazing out. She sat as he wolfed down the food and while he ate, she suddenly knew what she had to do. She had to take him away from the room so that help could arrive. No matter what, the formula couldn’t get into wrong hands.
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