Chapter 34

A little away from the hotel…

The man in hoodie was super excited as he started at his blood covered beauty the only trustworthy companion he ever had. He stared at the gleaming crimson blade shining in the poor flickering streetlight as he watched his handiwork lying in the dark alley before him. He had finally taken control and started his work already…Sia was disposed off too… no one would find her body for months and by then it would be decomposed enough beyond recognition… the law enforcement fools thought they could just catch him…? He wasn’t a sitting duck for crying out aloud…soon high command would call him and give him the permission to take them to the end of their mission in this country… he would then fulfil his calling after over a decade. He had been only 16 years old from the terror torn village near Baluchistan borders and had seen people being massacred ruthlessly. He had no emotions whatsoever… his own brother who was a teacher, was beheaded for going against the rules set by those men with guns… He was ‘taken in’ and trained for special missions for Allah they said… he didn’t believe in any God or religion… for him his religion was money and booze…the English one. Now he was getting neither and he couldn’t waste much time waiting… He made the all-important call and waited for a couple of rings and disconnected. Though they had reprimanded him for Shubha’s murder they would all be proud of his proficient workmanship. He was no longer just lying-in wait for some idiotic lame army man… the canary had already moved on to another guy… the bitches were all alike…Did the crippled tiger think he wouldn’t know that he was in Pune…? He had almost missed him… but once caught him with his hawk eye,s strolling outside the campus… hahaha…the disguise was such a joke… the limp gave him away… He hadn’t risen to become second in command to Rehmat by being a fool…

In fact, the crippled tiger would thank him someday…he did him a huge favour… he chuckled as he walked away….

The cab exited the hotel gates leaving behind a trail of smoke… Aman felt it was a perfect metaphor for his wretched life… everything had just gone up in smoke. Nirvi was gone… did she leave him for good…? No… He didn’t think so. She was a rational woman and understood him very well. Then how could she believe he could be a part of something so horrendous, after all they had shared in the past month…? Aman had been in high spirits today… Not only was he going to officially date Nirvi but he was also going to introduce her to Roshan… as his woman. But all had gone south. He shouldn’t have been surprised… his fucked-up life was all about getting ruined. Yet it hurt like hell. As he stood watching the darkness beyond the gates, he felt someone had ripped open his chest and ruthlessly removed his heart.

That morning after Nirvi had left, he had got a call from Ram about the confirmation of the guy they were looking for. He had reached the place with Ram and Shyama and a little private back up team, only to find the place upturned and empty. There was blood too… but unfortunately, they didn’t find anything that could lead them to the person who had been there. They had discreetly informed the local police and the flat was now sealed. The suspicious man had just vanished in thin air so had the call girl who was servicing him. Aman wasn’t sure if the woman was alive… He had then found out her brother was an orderly in the hospital where Nirvi and Roshan were posted. Shyam had picked up Dinkar from the local hooch joint and had ‘questioned’ him but apparently, he had just chatted with his sister Damini, who worked for a call centre. He refused to believe her name was Sia. He had vouched for the fact that she was chaste and had nothing to do with rogues… But Aman knew better. The man had been made a total fool of by his sister who had used him royally to get information about the happenings in the hospital. Who would suspect a mere orderly after all…?

However, the perp’s disappearance meant he would lay low for a while. At the same time Aman was happy about the precautions he had taken and was confident of being on the right track. Tej had used his connections and the commissioner of police was now personally involved in the strange house with its strange tenant and there was a city wide look out launched for the unknown perps. By tomorrow the local news channels would also be flashing lookout for suspicious looking people or those with suspicious dialects. There was a reward announced too so it would be difficult for the perps to make a move.

He had also received an encrypted email from Rewa that morning where she had mentioned about Rehmat being promoted ages ago and totally in charge of their mission in the country. She had found some classified details about the Brigadier’s project too and had asked him to visit her in Delhi ASAP to personally discuss the details and he was to go on Monday morning. Rewa had arranged a meet with the top brass in defence via SOP and they were all to meet on Monday afternoon in Delhi SOP office. Rewa was to take him there directly from the Crime Branch office once he reached. Aman had meanwhile hoped to spend a passion filled night with his gorgeous woman…and treat her to a lazy luxurious Sunday… oh… how his libido had broken barriers when he had laid his eyes on his beautiful Nirvi tonight… She was stunning in that gown. He had first confused her with her friend but the masquerade gave her away. He had stared at her from his distance before meeting with Roshan. He had ached to feel her in his arms and even now as he stood defeated watching people around him gossip and exit in their vehicles, he could only think of his woman and how he missed her already…

He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to see a sombre Roshan. “…I am sorry bhai… I had totally forgotten about the bet… but didn’t know Meenal…”

“…forget it, Roshan… let it go… I know Nirvi… I will give her the space she needs right now… she will understand…”

“…Bhai… you are deep in it…aren’t you…?”

Aman sighed. “…Roshan… I don’t know what more to say… but I… I can’t imagine my life without her anymore… I just can’t…”

“…then… why didn’t you go after her bhai…? Don’t waste time…”

Aman turned to Roshan and spoke. “…Look Roshan… things are still sinister… come home with me tonight…I will fill you on it…”

Roshan called for a cab and after bidding adieu to his friends they reached the row house, all the while along the way Aman could only think of what Nirvi must be going through and cursed himself for not being there for her…with her. Roshan had been on a call continuously, directing his buddies to take the women back to hostel safely. Aman felt proud of the guy… he had indeed grown up…

Back in the row house, Aman served them tea and spoke. “…Roshan… there are things you should know… now that everything may just explode…I didn’t want you to get involved at all… but unless the baggage from the past is gotten rid of, there wouldn’t be room for happiness in the future. So… you should now know…”

“…. Bhai… I am totally in it… you know that… right…? Tell me what is it…”

Aman then updated Roshan on his meeting with Rewa and Gurmeet and what they had found out, including the suspicious man who was watching the campus apparently. Roshan had been stunned to know about Dinkar… but that was expected. The later too didn’t know he was used to gather intel about Roshan and probably Nirvi too.

“…So bhai…?” Roshan spoke after pondering for a moment. “…Are you… going to Delhi then…? I mean before you sort things with Nirvika…?”

“…Roshan, I am doing all this… only so that you can have your life back and I can actually deserve Nirvi… in every sense of the word….”

“…but still… shouldn’t you first sort it with her…?”

Aman chuckled softly. “…Nirvi must have been shocked and felt betrayed tonight… I… want nothing more than to be with her… but she will need time… she has to be alone tonight…and her friend… who at times stays in her room… she would be there too…”

“…oh yes… Pooja… I got it… but Bhai… promise that once you are back from Delhi… you will work on your relationship… bhai… she has changed you so much… I could feel it… I have never seen you so contented and happy ever since I have known you…”

Aman nodded and sipped the hot chamomile tea, the honey like sweetness attempting to soothe him. But he knew for sure, he wouldn’t be at ease till Nirvi spoke to him again. He silently promised himself and Roshan that he would make things normal between them… just then he got the intimation of an email sent by Rewa. Why did she send something so late? It was past midnight. He was surprised to see the encrypted audio clip. Roshan was all alert as he helped in quick decryption which was a child’s play for him…

The voice was Rewa’s.

‘Amandeep, I can’t talk to you even on the burner in this regard… can’t risk being found out. Here is something our top sources recently intercepted… it looks like a code name. it’s just one word. I can’t reveal sources or the origin of the code but its from across the border. See if you find it familiar…also Aman… we have another message freshly intercepted and decoded…I think something is going to happen or already happened tonight. About a likely homicide… there only was a mention of ‘culling the canary’ we don’t know what it means yet…I am on it… meanwhile…Take care and be careful. Watch your six….

The code played: “Al… wa…ka…haf”’

Aman and Roshan looked at each other. Roshan looked visibly scared but seemed clueless. Aman blinked a few times till Rewa’s message sunk in. Canary…? What did that mean…? And where had he heard that code before? He was sure he had… fuck… his blank spell was irritating. Likely homicide…? Oh God who was it this time…? Roshan was safe here… He called Ram who assured him Nirvi had got home and had immediately left again in a cab with a bag in tow. He had an eye on her even now and she was on her way to Mumbai. Aman rubbed his face… she was probably visiting her folks. He hoped she would stay there for a while.  He instructed Ram to keep the eye on her constantly and to report to him if there was any movement on her part. In a way he was relieved… at least Nirvi would be out of Pune …at least tonight.

Just as he stood to stretch the now throbbing pain in his stump, Roshan’s phone buzzed. When he answered it, Aman saw colour drain off Roshan’s face as he only nodded and disconnected.

“…What is it Roshan…?”

“…Bhai…it was the hotel manager… there’s …a … murder…two actually… right outside in the alley… behind the hotel where… we had the party…” Roshan sat on the couch with a thud and held his face in his palms.

“…Roshan… we have to go and check…come on… now…” Aman tried to encourage Roshan and the later stood up as if on autopilot as Shyam drove them to the crime spot. The place was filled with police and as Aman and Roshan watched in horror at the couple in masquerade lying in a pool of blood. The darkness in the alley not helping identify who it was. The police were swarming like flies… but Aman couldn’t take his eyes off the corpses. He then saw something… wait was that… beads…? He had seen it somewhere… Oh Goodness the necklace he had tesed Nirvi with once… Wait….. his heart skipped a beat… But Nirvi was on her way to Mumbai. He immediately called Ram who confirmed it… She had crossed Lonavala and he was on her tail. Though he was relieved on that front Aman suddenly felt dizzy even as the ringing in his ear threatened to explode through his skull. Roshan held him as he swayed.

“…bhai…lets go to the car…”

“…No… NO… wait… who are they…? They must have been in the party….”

“…I… I will check it out… bhai… you wait here…”

Aman stood rooted to his spot in the dark while Roshan rushed through the barricades and met the police in charge. He showed his hospital I-card and the fact that he was an organiser in the party helped. The ambulance siren jarred Aman out of his robotic stupor… the cacophony of the people around, the sirens and his tinnitus… all reminded him of the gruesome night those years ago and it then flashed out of the blue… the word ‘Al wa ka…haf…’ something like that… he had heard right before he had lost consciousness on that black night.

As the realisation dawned along with a shudder through his body, he looked at Roshan speak with the paramedics on the ambulance as they lifted the corpses now covered with cloth which was stained with blood. He saw Roshan rush towards him. “…Bhai… we have to move from here…quick…”

Ignoring the throbbing in his stump Aman moved towards their vehicle and they were on their way back to the row house. Roshan had to report to the hospital tomorrow morning. He was silent throughout their drive back and sat uptight with his fists clenched It was only after they had locked up inside the house Aman softly asked, “…Roshan… who… who were they…?”

“…Bhai… it was Poo… Pooja…” Roshan plonked on the floor and lay back towards the wall and rubbed his fatigued face.

“…Nirvi’s friend…?” Aman asked shocked.

Roshan nodded and looked away.

“…And… who was the… other person…?” Roshan shook his head and covered his face as Aman asked again. “…Who was it Roshan…?”

“…it was an unknown guy… her boyfriend I think… and…”

“…And what…?”

“…And… Bhai… his… his left leg had been cut off…” Roshan covered his face as began to sob.

Aman was stunned to silence… He now knew what was going on… the perps had probably confused Pooja for Nirvi but wondered if they had realised it in the end and had killed the companion to send him a signal… they were on to him. He rubbed his face even as dread settled in his stomach.

After deliberating on his own for a while even as Roshan slept a disturbed sleep on the couch, Aman made a decision. He called Rewa who answered the call on the first ring. He gave her the information but some of it she already knew. Unfortunately, there were no cameras in the alleys and the police were now trying to get the footage form the areas around to look for the perps. But Aman knew it would be futile. They probably were no more sure if the perp  was in Pune.

The second decision he took was to protect Roshan… Shyam was entrusted the responsibility already. Roshan himself knew the drill and he would explain things to the guy yet again tomorrow morning. Roshan was shaken too and Aman hoped the guy would recover soon.

Finally, the third and the most important decision… he would not be in touch with Nirvi… though the very thought killed him. But Nirvi’s safety mattered the most and he would keep her safe. He would resolve their misunderstandings later but for now he had to protect her. In fact, no one would die because of his past baggage any more… Ram was assigned the job to keep a watch on Nirvi.

As he filled his bags, he wondered if this time everything would really get concluded… the wait had been too long and too tumulus… the flames of mindless terror had consumed a lot of innocent people and now he probably had the key to stop it all. He was now head on into this and he would move heaven and earth to end it. As he saw a pic of Nirvi and him together… the only one he had hidden into a deeply hidden folder in his mobile phone, his eyes filled wondering if he would ever see her again…

©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer

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