Their vehicle strutted on the uneven terrain a couple of hours later as they navigated the ill-maintained road towards the port. The SOP team was frantically searching for Simrat’s whereabouts using the feeble tracker information while the Vasco police had mobilized their resources to look for suspicious homes and people.. the locals were all told to be alert and inform the police if they found anything in their vicinity.
Anshuman was lost in his thoughts wondering how would Manpreet be… the boy was weak and he hoped his stammering didn’t get worse. He hoped Simrat kept her nerve and was there with Manpreet to console him and take him through the ordeal. It was beyond him why Kader… Kasim had to take Meera and Simrat… but he was glad Simrat was there. She would get the situation under control till help reached them. He hoped he could get a glimpse of his sister… he just prayed for that little mercy… He blinked back tears remembering their childhood days and how her occasional chatter when she wasn’t painting, brought cheer in their haveli… He just wished he had been more caring and been in touch with her. That was a regret he would take to his grave. He hoped he could have Manpreet in his life permanently… in a way he would be having a part of Meera with him.
Rewa announced that Simrat’s tracker stopped transmission totally and its last location was zeroed down to the Sanchoale village near the port. The vehicles all headed towards the village.
The sleepy village of Sancoale went about it’s routine. It was 7PM and close to closing time. Abenezer Pinto Ferrao began to pull the shutter of his general store to half. His shop ‘Sanceole Fazer Compress (SFC)’ remained open till 9PM until it was time to hit the sack. His wife of thirty-five years Beatrice got him home-cooked dinner and they sat up chatting till closing time. He had a tiny TV installed and occasionally they were visited over by their neighbor Albert Nigel Barcelos who ran a hardware store. The septuagenarian was happy now that business was picking up post-COVID. Tourists however who came over to face the rural life and stayed in their homestays were now sparse… and Abenezer’s business was affected. However, the childless couple was happy with what they had and had lived off their savings. He hoped that things would get better soon. In the Sixty five years of his life, the last forty were spent in Sancoale. He remembered the days when he had run away from Candolim as a fifteen-year-old to escape from his stepfather’s clutches. After traveling across Goa he had landed in Sancoale. One look at the ruins of the Our Lady of Heath Church and he was a goner. Something about the place and the laid-back locals appealed to him and he stayed back. He did odd jobs for Albert, then a young man who had taken over his father’s business. He learned a lot on the job and the tourist influx led him to start his B&B with a tiny loan. He had met and married Beatrice by then and she had been his strength as the business saw ups and downs. They soon realized the need for a general store for all the B&Bs in the area and thus FSC came into existence a few years ago. Beatrice was a cook par excellence and her puddings were a hit across the village and nearby towns. However, off late he arthritis was holding her back and years of hard work were taking a toll on her body. He had made up his mind to shut the B&B and only keep the shop.
God had been merciful to him. Just when he was wondering about the feeble business, those men today afternoon had purchased more than half his stock. He made a month-long profit in a day. He was thrilled as Beatrice arrived with dinner. He shared the news with her and heard Albert walk in to watch the evening news. Albert’s son was looking after the business now and the old man only came to spend time. He loved Beatrice’s cooking and dropped in to savor some of the dinners. Beatrice often got greater quantity and their chatter till the shop closed was the kind of life Abenezer loved and cherished.
“…So man… heard you had a good day at business today…?” Albert asked as Beatrice served them the meal.
“…oh yes… Lord has been kind… A good figure it was… God bless those men… don’t look like from near around…don’t look like tourists either…” Abenezer commented. Today, they would have good fodder for their conversations. Better than stupid politics. He was always in favor of the United Goans Democratic Party while Albert favored the Goa Forward Party. They often argued on the policies and decisions and Beatrice had to shut them up.
Albert spoke in his strangled hoarse voice caused by years of smoking. “…Oh Lord… my memory these days… Those handsome men visited our hardware unit man… last week as well… looks like some housing project… good sales for us too… but don’t ye think… something is fishy…?” Albert pondered.
Beatrice came and sat next to them with her plate. “…Abe… honey… what is this…? I am worried saiba…”
“…Oh we haven’t done anything wrong… Albert… any idea where they are living…?”
“…Na re… But my Alphonso said… some condo was taken up near the old steel plant…and a lot of modification done… lots of pipework… But no one in the council is aware…we should check…no…?”
The three of them eat in quiet for the first time in years wondering about the new entrants threatening the quiet life of their village.
It was approaching 9 PM and Albert walked to the door to make a move to his house. His grandson Myron waited for him texting away to glory. The young lad was only 14 yrs old and had a girlfriend. Abenezer wondered… ah…kids these days… he shut the door and prepared to shut the shop.
Suddenly a stream of vehicles halted outside causing the dust to spread up before his door as he opened it again. It looked like a police vehicle and a couple of Dark vans. Men with black outfits emerged and ran towards his shop. A tall woman and a police Inspector followed by a harried-looking handsome young man and a tall well built burly rugged-looking man approached him. Beatrice stiffened next to him even as he gripped her bony hand tightly.
They walked up to him and stood. The Inspector spoke. “…Hello I am Inspector D’Lama from Varca police station and we are currently looking out for any kind of strange people presumably hidden in this area… have you seen anyone…?”
“…Str… strange…? As in…? this is a small village Inspector… and now tourism is down too… we rarely have visitors…”
“…Look mister…” the woman spoke. “…this is an emergency and a matter of life and death… please share anything that looked strange in these last couple of days…we are positive the people we are looking for are somewhere here…”
Beatrice nudged at him and Abenezer spoke. “…Well, I don’t know if this will help but today morning…” He told them about the men who made the massive purchase and even about the hardware purchases from Albert.
The people turned around the same way and spoke something about bringing down back up to the old steel plant…steel plant meant oxygen supply. They spoke about some patient and kid…
For the first time since he had run away from home, Abenazer was scared. He said a silent prayer hoping he wasn’t party to some scumbag…
©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer.