Ramanrao paced the drawing-room, still having the lingering traces of the snacks Uma had served Kajal and KB. He had thought he had them in his fist, especially Kajal when he told her her aai was a hero. He had thought she would start despising KB, knowing the truth about his father. That idiot Subodh must have mistaken like always…
Subodh had found out that KB had a contract marriage for getting his inheritance and that weasel was helping Ramanrao just for laying his hands on that wealth. He had seen a golden opportunity when he had known Kajal was KB’s wife and had used the sympathy card as well as the divide and rule card just like he had done with her mother.
Yes, he had, through unsuspecting Uma poisoned Rajani’s mind about her husband and his alcoholism. Of course, Manohar wasn’t a drinker, but Ramanrao had arranged the situations that made him look like one, particularly after frustrating him. After all, that idiot refused to accept bribes and look the other way. Manohar was all set to confiscate the most significant consignment from Russia, and he had to get rid of him… mainly because Manohar was almost onto him.
Thankfully Manohar hadn’t left any evidence behind else; everything would have been over. Ramanrao had prided himself over his manipulative abilities. He had royally treaded over the Shinde couple and used the naïve Rajani for his gains. He knew she wasn’t interested in that Batra. But Batra, who was once a pioneer partner in his nefarious business, was losing his touch. Alcohol had diluted his blood and gotten into his head as well. He had fallen for Rajani, knowing she was married and with kids. Ramanrao had knowingly pushed him towards Rajani. It was easy to get rid of him in that manner. He hadn’t counted on Batra to leave behind evidence or suspicious kid.
As he looked into the night vision of his vast garden beautifully tended to by Uma, he snorted. He had come a long way covering his tracks. But today KB looked stricken, probably taking the bait but unexpectedly, Kajal didn’t seem to be affected. Far from her docile mother, she was tenacious. He couldn’t spew more venom trying to link her mother and Batra because Uma was getting emotional remembering her old friend, whom she missed even today. She was in a precarious mental state, and he didn’t want her to get a clue of whatever he had done.
He could lose anything but not her.
His phone buzzed, and it was a call from the syndicate in Russia. His final consignment was to arrive, and it was the biggest ever… because it had many little kids this time. There were foreign nationals across the country and also rich Indians who liked ‘being with’ kids. The money also doubled. He would make the most money ever, and his target would fulfill. Something that had eluded him for the past decade. He would retire permanently abroad, where he had stocked money and had already invested in an apartment. It was suitable for Uma where she could spend time with her gardening and designing. He hoped she would paint again. She had given up painting after Rajani had gone.
Time was running out and he had to take care of KB and Kajal. He didn’t know how much they knew but they knew something that they didn’t reveal. Kajal was too intelligent and not easily trusting. This consignment was on the line… He was no longer on the force, and he had to be extremely careful. The police were alredy alerted on the attempts on KB’s life so they would be looking for clues…
He dialed a number.
“Hello Subodh, long time… looks like you need to earn your keep…”
“Uh… Pradhan Saheb… we tried, didn’t we? I gave you the information on Mahabaleshwar… everything, and it should have been a cakewalk for your man… he delayed it, and by then, Kajal reached there with the cops. So it isn’t my fault, is it?”
“Subodh, don’t try to act smart with me. I am not one of your cronies. I have a lot of dirt on you, so don’t even think of double-crossing me. I have dirt on you as well… I know it was you who caused KB’s grandfather to fall and have that hemorrhage. Just imagine what would happen if the Deshmukh group came to know of it… You and your family will be disowned with immediate effect, and the minuscule tidbits that you enjoy will also be lost. I am now giving you the responsibility. Take KB and Kajal out, and you will get that inheritance and a share from my profit.”
“Uh… tumhi naaraz jhalat… (you got angry). How can I now do it? KB and I don’t get along so he will suspect me if I keep visiting him….”
“I don’t care how you do it. I want those obstacles out of my way in the next few days. I will give you a week. Otherwise, your information that’s been under wraps for so many years will see the light of the day. So get ready for the repercussions.”
He hung up, feeling frustrated. Good-for-nothing morons surrounded him. He was tired of threatening and arm-twisting tactics. He wanted results now… It was time. He walked into his study. Sleep long gone; he looked at the picture of him and his wife taken when they were newly married. She had been so vibrant and full of life. He had fallen in love with her instantly after he had first seen her at a cousin’s wedding. He was an orphan and had struggled to reach where he was, and something about her filled his lonely heart with hope. She had been engaged to another guy named Amit, but Ramanrao wanted her at any cost.
Ramanrao leaned back on his easy chair, holding the photo frame. It was for Uma that he had indulged in the first crime of his life. He was a newly appointed sub-inspector, and it was easy to lure Amit to a secluded location. A banker by profession, Amit didn’t know anything about law enforcement, and it was easy to push the unsuspecting Amit on the train track. The body was crushed beyond recognition. Uma had loved Amit and had been inconsolable. Ramanrao had been right there ‘helping’ out with the police formalities as well as ‘investigating.’
He had given Uma a shoulder to cry on, and it had taken her two years to get over the grief while he had patiently waited. Uma’s brother, who was also Amit’s close friend, had begun to suspect Ramanrao and had started to investigate him stealthily, and Ramanrao had landed up committing his second crime. The young man had followed a planted lead to Goa, and pushing him into the high tide after drugging him at the dead of the night was a piece of cake. The brother’s bloated body was found a week later, and again, Ramanrao had been there for a devastated Uma and her family.
He and Uma were married six months later.
Uma poured all her attention on him and their new life. One day about a couple of months into their marriage he overheard her conversation with her mother who suggested she go for a child. Uma declared that she wanted a baby to pour all her love and the thought had enraged Ramanrao. He loved Uma and had gone miles to claim her not to lose her attention and love to a measly baby. He had got a vasectomy done the very next day and after a few years of trying and failed IVF methods based on the reports ‘rigged’ by Ramanrao, she had given up.
Uma had often wanted to adopt a child, but Ramamrao had convinced her otherwise. He had done everything to amass wealth just so that he could retire early and spend a lifetime with Uma in a place of solitude. But he had been deprived of that so far, and now it was finally time.
There was also one more obstacle who knew about his past. Rafiq. He was turning into a white elephant. He was always short of money, and his drug addiction was also getting on Ramanrao’s nerves. It was time he got rid of the guy… he had planned something to incriminate him in KB’s attempt to murder case, and very soon, the dimwit would be arrested. He would then arrange for about in jail that would get rid of the man forever. After all, gang wars in prison were a common feature. His new man Friday didn’t know anything about his past, and after this consignment, he would take care of that man as well.
Ramanrao sighed, placing the photo back on the study table. He walked out of the room, switching off the lights. It was time for a bright beginning… a new chapter.
KB and kajal just finished their late breakfast. KB helped Kajal put away the dishes and despite the upheaval in their lives, KB seemed calm. They spoke on mundane topics staying away from the one which had caused stress in their ripple-free waters.
As they settled in the drawing-room to ponder over the next course of action, the doorbell boomed, and KB answered it. Mr. Mehta breezed in huffing and panting. The man seemed to have lost weight and had bags under his eyes.
“Mr. Mehta? Is your wife alright?” Kajla asked him, offering him water.
“Madam, she is fine now recovering in her mother’s place.” He sighed, lost.
“What is it, Mehta?” KB asked now, and Kajal knew something was troubling the man.
“KB sir, I couldn’t come to terms with Raj’s death. We know its murder but no way to prove it. Yesterday I went to meet his parents and they are in bad shape. Devastated… no one to take care of them. I just transferred some amount in their account and will help them wind up his office… KB sir, I feel responsible. By the way, his father gave me this pen drive… it was kept in their family locker… and Raj had specifically told his old man to give this to you. But he hadn’t remembered till I met them yesterday….” Mr. Mehta placed the pen drive on the center table.
KB plugged it into the TV so that they could all see the contents. They were all stunned to silence as some CCTV garbs came up. They looked old and grainy, but one could make out young women being brought in groups into the hotel. Men would come in cars, and they would be escorted by the women inside. Many women would walk out bruised and wailing only to be pushed into a waiting car.
KB already knew this from what Raj had told him the last time they met. But something caught his attention, and he paused the streaming. He walked to the TV and pointed towards a young familiar-looking man with a scar on his head.
“Kajal, do you remember him?”
“KB sir there is something else you should know.” Mr. Mehta chipped in.
“What is it Mehta?”
“Sir, I dug in a bit through my contacts in the police and found out how the security details changed and what the confusion was on the day of your trip to Mahabaleshwar….” He rubbed his weary face. “…Sir, it was your uncle, Subodh who had caused the issue. He went as your representative and canceled the reservation. But he had forgotten to sign some documents that’s when they called me and I found out. So… I think…”
“…The bastard in involved. He is equally a culprit… the backstabber.” KB spoke angrily.
“Krish… there is one thing we can do now…” Kajla spoke firmly as the two pairs of eyes trained on her. “… We hand over this evidence to the commissioner of police.”
“How do you think we can approach the commissioner?” KB asked. Even he didn’t have that kind of clout.
“Rugved sir can help us. He knows the commissioner personally… old contacts I heard. And another thing, let’s leak this to the media… Shipra maam can help here. She is the best person to shape news to suit the purpose. So let’s turn the heat on the perps….”
“How will this help Kajal?” KB asked
“Krish, I am sure if even today, the culprits are worried, it’s because there must be something huge coming up. With Ramanrao’s clout, he can manage to slip out, and there is no concrete evidence against him. But if this becomes public, he will become nervous and make some mistakes… that’s what we are after….” She spoke in a single breath and looked at the two of them, watching her wide-eyed.
KB walked up to her and hugged her tightly.
“Did I say… you are a brilliant woman…?” when she nodded, he continued. “… and did I ever tell you…I love you?”