My team Inspirati and I are now in Round 2 of the Game of Blogs to #CelebrateBlogging at BlogAdda We are writing a serial story.
You are about to read…
Jekyll Or Hyde?
Around the time Vijay was dialling Jennifer’s number, in another part of the town, an unhappy man sat, with his head in his hands. What a mess he had gotten into! Gratitude was all very well. His mother always enjoyed quoting that “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Fine for her to say that, but it was he who had to go through the agony of expressing it – like it or not, he had pledged his help and now, there was no backing out.
Aryan Ahuja abruptly stood up and went to stand by the window, seeing with unseeing eyes, his mind far away, back in time, in the past. His thoughts drifted to the day he had first met Inspector Tawde, who was yet to join the police force. They had been waiting their turn to clear the final interviews and had struck an instant rapport with each other. Aryan had found himself wishing that both of them would get through, and they had. And thus was formed a friendship that grew stronger over the years.
They were often assigned cases together as undercover cops and enjoyed the team spirit with which they cracked them. Even when they did not work together, they managed to meet often. They had steadily grown in rank. And then, the day had come when Aryan was deputed to Delhi for a case. He recalled how Tawde had first been shocked and then, quickly recovering, had congratulated his friend. Voice slightly shaking, he had said that Delhi was not that far from Mumbai and it was only for a case. They had stayed in touch, calling each other every other weekend.
Life went on.
And then the day had come when Aryan had been assigned a top-secret case involving a politician. He now shuddered, recalling how things had gone completely awry. The politician had been involved in child trafficking and had covered his tracks extremely well. It had taken Aryan all his resources and wit to set him up so he could bust his cover. Just when he was on the verge of wrapping it up, the politician had given him the slip and disappeared.
Upset, Aryan had called his friend Tawde to vent. Based on a gut feeling, Tawde had put a watch on the airport and had hit the jackpot. The politician’s destination had indeed been Mumbai and Tawde had continued to track his movements. He had informed Aryan about the latest developments and Aryan had rushed to Mumbai to take it from there. After a cat and mouse game of sorts, Aryan had tracked the politician to his lair and caught him red-handed with his henchmen. In the pandemonium that ensued, Aryan was caught in the cross fire between the criminals and his team and it was Tawde who had arrived at the crucial moment to save Aryan’s life.
How could Aryan forget that? He was indebted to Tawde. He owed him his life.
Subsequently, Tawde had risen in the ranks and Aryan was happy to report to him.
So, when Tawde had requested his help to crack a child trafficking ring, Aryan had readily agreed and managed to land up in Mumbai with permission to work undercover on this case. He had rented a house near the Duttas’ place and had gotten friendly with their charming little daughter, Roohi. Tawde wanted him to keep an eye on Kamla, the Duttas’ maid, who was suspected of foul play. Tawde was convinced she was part of a gang that kidnapped and sold children. This had gotten Aryan’s blood boiling and was looking forward to put an end to the gang’s activities, busting their racket.
Aryan shook his head, trying to return to the present. He had been furious when he learned that Kamla had given Tawde the slip and escaped with Roohi.
To add to his agony, the Duttas were accusing him of being hand in glove with the people who had abducted Roohi. He thought of Tara’s hysterics followed by Shekar’s emotional outburst. He had managed to send Shekar away this time, but for how long? Blissfully unaware of Tawde’s drunken phone call to the Duttas, he wondered what had triggered their suspicion of him…they had always had amicable relations.
Then there was the matter of that law student, Cyrus, who, he had heard, was now in a coma.
What a mess!
Turning back into the room, he was trying to decide on his next move when his eyes fell on the teddy bear on one of the chairs. Unbidden, thoughts of little Roohi filled his head and his heart went out to her.
He remembered the day they had met. Roohi had been playing with a ball in her balcony and her ball inadvertently fallen over the fence into Aryan’s front yard. She had called out and requested him to throw the ball back at her and Aryan had refused, asking her instead to come downstairs. He wanted to advise her not to play ball in her balcony as it was dangerous.
Roohi had come down obligingly and listened, smiling her charming smile. Aryan found himself drawn to her as he handed her back her ball. As the days went by, Aryan saw more of Roohi. She seemed like a lonely child. Later he had learned that her mother Tara went to work while Shekar, her father worked from home. He was surprised to see that the family didn’t seem to spend much time together.
Roohi made it a habit to seek him out and soon, they had formed a bond. Aryan enjoyed listening to her prattling on with Uncle this and Uncle that. He was sad to hear that her parents hardly spent any time with her and seemed to be fighting most of the time. Aryan couldn’t help liking Roohi – the little girl was so trusting and clearly in need of affection. Aryan had it in plenty to give.
His eyes glazed over at a memory filed away in his mind. He quickly brushed it off as he had more urgent things to do.
He absentmindedly picked up the teddy bear and held it close to his chest as the thought about his next move.
Kamla had had enough of men calling the shots. Would life ever be the same again, as she knew it? All she wanted was to deliver, collect and move on. Her aspirations were not even that high. Was it too much to ask to want a roof over her head, food and a steady income? She had a child to support too. Who knew that something as simple as picking up a child and delivering her in exchange for cash would become such a long drawn out and confusing situation. She wasn’t even sure of what was happening any more. From the looks of the men she was dealing with, she was afraid of what they might do to her and the child. Maybe she shouldn’t have gotten involved in this particular deal. But it had seemed so easy. She tried to convince herself that the child’s parents wouldn’t miss her – they never seemed to have time for her anyway. However, she had been surprised at the show of grief from the Duttas when they realized their daughter was missing. Parental love was strange. Kamla couldn’t ever imagine losing her own child. Involuntarily, she drew the drugged Roohi closer to her, her mind now brewing with a plan.
Aryan mulled over the brief conversation he had had with Tawde. What was Tawde up to? First, al he had wanted was to track Kamla. Now, he had lost Kamla and Roohi when he could have easily nabbed them. To top it all, he was acting strangely. Aryan found himself getting angry that Tawde had placed Roohi in danger. He decided to take the matter in his own hands. He’d pay Tawde a visit, instructions be damned!
Aryan arrived at Tawde’s door, only to find it locked. That didn’t deter him. He still had his key to Tawde’s place and quietly let himself in. In fact, it suited him perfectly that Tawde wasn’t home. He was determined to get to the bottom of this. What was Tawde hiding?
Quickly and efficiently, he began to search Tawde’s house. He smiled, recalling how Tawde always praised him for his patience and thoroughness.
Well, he’d show him how thorough he could be.
He was done with the living room which was almost bare. He began to work on Tawde’s bedroom.
As he pulled open drawers, he felt a tingling in his blood. He had to finish here before Tawde returned from wherever he had gone.
He was almost done. Exasperated, he ran his fingers through his hair and sat with a thumb on the corner of Tawde’s bed. As his hand gripped the mattress in frustration, the tips of his fingers felt some hard. Lifting the mattress, Aryan saw a folder.
Curious, he pulled it out.
His mind was racing as he digested the contents of the folder.
Two passports, one in the name of Prakash Tawde and another in the name of Roohi Tawde.
Air tickets to Dubai.
What the hell was going on here?
The mystery continues…and Episode 18 is here
Special thanks to my team for their constant motivation and encouragement!