Ramanrao moved through the dungeon which was once a factory belonging to Ranjit Batra. He knew KB was obsessed with the idea of buying it but he had the indirect control over the property by default, courtesy an alcoholic binge spree that saw Ranjit sign over the deed to him. He hadn’t risen to this level without foresight.
He had kept the property under litigation for over a decade with the sole means of milking it now. He still couldn’t sell it but he would now use it as a bait.
No one, not even Rafiq knew it belonged to him. Only the front-man he had created and paid for ages, knew the secret but if he opened his mouth he knew the repurcussions. So Ramanrao was rest assured. The only way to claim the insurance was burning it to the ground… the broung that buried all his secrets. And what could be a better than bury the last remnants tugging onto him from the old life? KB and Kajal knew more than he had thought. He was sure… they both needed to go. And this was the best place to bring that chapter to an end.
It would put the final nail in the coffin of his past deeds. Kajal could join her mother too… He walked deep into what remained of Ranjit’s cabin. There was an old locker that had been broken open by Rafiq under his instructions but they had found nothing then accept some unwanted papers and petty cash.
Ramanrao walked back outside unable to bear the malodour of neglect emanating form the walls and ceiling filled with creature he didn’t even want to think of.
Knowing that he was all alone outside the dilapidated structure he placed the call.
“Hello Ganpat? There is something you need to convey to KB and Kajal. You remember that factory in Virar? Yes… the one belonging to KB’s father. KB wants to buy it and I can arrange for the conditions to be lifted…”
“Oh Saheb… that’s fabulous news. Kajal had mentioned how much KB wanted to buy it. They wanted to convert it into an NGO for orphaned children. Good cause Saheb…” Ganpat kept talking to his utmost annoyance. Why on earth did people want to keep doing charity?
“Fine fine… but just remember, I have had to go through a lot to get this arranged for the sake of Kajal… she has suffered so much and I owe this much at least to Manohar…”
“Saheb… you are great…”
“its nothing Ganpat… but don’t breathe a word that this is coming from me… KB may not like it and I don’t want anyone from the force knowing about it as well…”
“Ho Saheb… I wont tell them. I will convey this piece of information to KB and Kajal. They would be thrilled.”
After he hung up, Ramanrao made the next call.
“Yes Mr. Victor Sergey… We are ready here. I hope the package is ready as well… I shall personally escort the consignment this time and there shall be no hindrance I assure you… Cu soon.”
He disconnected and smiled. His plan this time was fool proof and there wouldn’t be obstacles at all… He made that much awaited call.
“OMG… KB what is all this..?” Shipra squealed wide eyed as she saw the CCTV clips from the pendrive. KB and Kajal sat back on the chair before her giving her time to assimilate while Mr. Mehta sat with the forlorn look etched on his face.
“Shipra ma’am, we need your help in making this public. The people who died and those young girls who are pushed into flesh trade being victims of trafficking need to be saved at least prevented to the best of our abilities. But if the law enforcement is only involved then whom can we approach? We can’t go the ususal way because Ramanrao Pradhan is too shrewd. As you see these videos don’t incriminate him… but they feature his henchman we found out his name is Rafiq and we know the brothel he frequents. If we can catch him he can become a material witness…”
Shipra thought for a while and spoke. “We are a PR firm so we cant deal with this directly but I know reporters who can do a great job and I will see to it that you guys don’t feature anywhere… Since Raj is already dead and his parents now in an old age home, we can use his name. Is that OK Mr. Mehta?”
Mr. Mehta nodded. He hadn’t disclosed the location of the old parents. He had kept them someplace safe for the time being. KB too had offered to pitch in the money needed to help them out.
Shipra made a few calls. She then turned to them. “Its done… my reported friends will be doing the expose tomorrow. But at the same time, the police should be ready to catch that man named Rafiq….”
“Yes, Shipra ma’am, we are meeting with Rugved sir in a while….”
In Sharanya productions
“So Kajal and KB… to what do I owe this pleasure?” Rugved asked, leaning back on his chair.
Kajal placed the pen drive before him, asking him for his help after telling him why she missed work. But it didn’t escape her attention that KB was transfixed to the framed photo of Sharanya… in Rugved’s office. Of course, the young woman was way too beautiful…
Rugved looked furious.
“Goddamn, these bastards… I was longing for some evidence. My late sister’s pen friend was involved in this, and Sharanya had tried her best to get information… that eventually led to her death….” Rugved rubbed his face even as Kajal looked wide-eyed… what on earth was happening?
“Is she… your… sister?” Finally, KB, who was silent all this while, spoke.
Rugved got up and walked to the photo adjusting the sandalwood garland around it properly and lighting an incense stick.
“This is my sister… Sharanya. She passed away a decade ago…. It was tough… because we only got her dismembered body lying outside our home…no idea what had happened…” he rubbed his face and turned around. “…But KB, why do you ask…?”
“She… she was with us in that club and in that car… we were all in an accident, and I was the only survivor…” he shuddered, and Kajal placed her hand on his.
Rugved rushed to KB and held his collar pulling him out of the chair.
“What the fuck KB? What do you mean club? My sister never visited clubs, and what was she doing in your car? She would never go without informing us… she was way too timid for that…? So… tell me you are bluffing… why didn’t we get any information about the accident?”
“Rugved, sir, please let go of him…” Kajal grabbed his hands while KB stood still with an expressionless face. Kajal was worried KB would once again sink into the blame game.
Rugved let go and KB slumped on the chair.
“Rugved, sir, KB is a victim like all of us here, and the mastermind behind all this is that Ramanrao Pradhan.. he was the one who spiked the drinks. He was the one involved in trafficking and didn’t blink before he got rid of witnesses. KB recently had three attempts on his life as well… My dad was caught in the rut, and my mother… I don’t even know if she is alive anymore. SO… please help us. We need your contact with the commissioner of police and to convince him. Please, we have to catch Ramanrao before he makes his next move….”
Rugved walked back to his chair. He sat heavily on it, holding his face in his palms.
“I spent a decade trying to figure out what had happened to my sister and in the process, had forgotten what she was after…. This is terrible.”
He composed himself and placed the all-important call. The commissioner of police was his best friend’s father, and he had access to the hotline.
About fifteen minutes later where Kajal heard only one side of the call even as KB stared at the floor, Rugved disconnected,
“Commissioner uncle will help us. He is assigning a special team to us shortly. They will guide us and use the evidence we have. A small team of select policemen in plain clothes will now be placed near the brothel to catch that Rafiq…as soon as he makes his appearance there.”
Kajal and KB rode back home and all the while she was worried to see a silent KB who had gripped her palm. Her heart broke seeing him in pain.
As they reached their complex, the security guard came and informed them about a delivery that had come in their absence. After checking for explosives by the assigned guards, Kajal and KB took it upstairs to the penthouse. It was strangely in Kajal’s name and she wondered who knew she was here… to send her a gift.
KB and she settled in the drawing-room.
“Krish, are you ok? You have been quiet for a long time…”
“Kajal, how many more graves are my father and that Pradhan responsible for?” KB blinked back tears, and she saw he was finding it tough to control his emotions.
“Krish…” she held his hand, kneeling before him. “… we can’t be responsible for what they did… good or bad. We have suffered too… I shudder at the thought that I had almost lost you, Krish… But we have made it this far is because we have to unearth the truth and bring that man to justice. So let’s open this thing first….”
KB nodded as she tore open the haphazard wraping. It was hand-delivered, and there wasn’t any return address or name of the sender.
They were surprised they removed the wrapper totally to reveal the painting… it was the same one she had seen in Pradhan’s home, made by his wife.
There was n envelope taped to the plastic covering the painting.
Kajal opened it and it read,
You probably may never forgive me for not being there for you when Rajani left us. But I wasn’t in the right frame of mind too… I had lost my best friend too and felt responsible. I should have stopped her from going undercover.
I don’t have anything to give you except this one. Rajani and I had painted this together. It was titled mirror image… I know you may not be having your mother’s painting, but here is a little blessing from your Uma aunty, and your mother would have loved you to have it.
Do you know why we painted a banyan tree? Because it has strong roots that laugh at the storm…That’s it… our FOUNDATIONS have to be strong. Rest will follow…Remember when in peril, go back to the foundations and carve out a future PATH….
Kajal stared at the letter blinking back tears, unable to fathom what was going on. Despite her hatred for Ramanrao, she couldn’t bring herself to dislike Uma aunty. She was her aai’s friend after all and probably meant well.
KB helped her hand the painting, which was quite heavy despite the plain canvas and light frame. Then, before she could think of anything, her phone buzzed. It was Ganpatkaka.
“Kajal, there is something good… in our last meet, you had mentioned in passing about that factory in Virar which KB wanted? Well, its available for sale and will be auctioned soon by the municipal officers… the ban has been lifted. But the factory will be demolished in a few days, and the land will be auctioned. So KB can now try for it.”
“Oh, that’s good, kaka… and when is the auction?”
“Auction dates haven’t come out, but the property is now open for appraisal. If you want you can visit. Before the demolition… KB may want to see it one last time. I can arrange for that. They are particular about not allowing people before the auction, but I can arrange for you to visit tomorrow itself. Let me know…”
“I will talk to KB and get back.”
After hanging up she turned to KB. “KB do you want to see that factory? It will be demolished soon…”
“Kajal, don’t you think it’s such a coincidence when we now have this proof?” KB spoke softly.
“I know that KB and I think we should take the bait to lay in another bait… from our side.”
“What do you mean Kajal?”
“Tomorrow it will all be in the papers and TV news channels so Ramanrao is bound to be flustered. But, at the same time, if we are in the factory, he is bound to try something and get caught red-handed…”
“Kajal… its too dangerous. We have seen to what extent he can go to. So I will go alone.”
“No, Krish, we are tied to this together… I now think we weren’t put together by chance… we were destined to be. The universe had conspired to do it…. So we go together.”
KB pulled her close to him, and they stood like that in each other’s arms.
By evening they had connected with Ganpat kaka, who had secured permission for them to visit the factory ruins. Unknown to Ganpat kaka, Rugved and the special police team was intimated. The necessary arrangements were made stealthily.
That night as they slept in each other’s arms, KB was soon fast asleep, but Kajal remained awake. Tomorrow they had to get the evidence at any cost. They had attacked Ramanrao from all directions.
The cruise towards justice was now coming to an end…
Would they wobble on the tides, or in the deep sea would they blend?