Megha and Santrupti walked out of the cinema hall dazed. It was an emotionally draining movie and right now, they just didn't feel like talking. They were not alone, the entire audience of the show walked toward the exit like a bunch of zombies. The only sound coming from the ruffling of footsteps. An audible sigh of relief escaped from mouths once out in the open. Like they'd bobbed their heads out of the water. They walked to her car parked at the far left of the lot.
Once out, they had to snail it up behind a long line of cars, partly due to the movie crowd, and partly due to the several barricades up ahead, just outside the hall. The police were even checking a couple of cars. All young men in them.
"Wonder why so many cops?" Santrupti's first words since interval.
"Hmm?" Megha was still in the movie.
They waded through the pool of cars and finally hit the semi-empty road. It was almost 1 am and Bangalore looked more like in the wake-up mode than sleep. They were headed the Mumbai way for sure, thought Sannu (Megha called her that).
Two guys waved them down and forced them to pull up to a side.
"Megha, just drive" Sannu hissed.
"But..how can I? They've blocked my way.."
"Just reverse it up and go". Sannu's voice shivered.
Megha looked around to see if there were any cops. None. All of them were back there near the cinema.
The fairer and taller one knocked on Megha's window.
Megha raised her eyes, her face a question mark.
He mumbled something she couldn't make out. Then he raised his fist, as if to break in.
She rolled down slowly.
"Give me the bag." He barked this time.
She handed it to him. He dug his hand inside, trying to find something. Sannu looked on in horror. Megha tried to be calm. Then, Sannu's hand slid inside her bag and clutched the pepper-spray can tight. She reminded herself to thank Manoj who'd bought it for her just last week.
The man called his partner. They talked in hushed tones and then finally their voices rose. Sannu understood the local dialect. Something about mistake, wrong woman, bag etc..they couldn't make out anything.
He shoved the bag back to her and waved them to go. Megha gratefully brought the car to life and took the first turn they got.
"Whatever the hell was that?" Megha said, after parking the car in front of Sannu's house. She hid her face in her hands and then ran them over her head.
Santrupti looked ahead, too terrified to talk.
"Why were they after my bag?" It was more a question to herself..
Sannu didn't reply. Too many questions were racing in the women's minds. The horror of what had just happened hadn't yet sunk in.
The police commissioner got up and smiled.
"Thanks a lot Ms. Santrupti. Our city needs alert and responsible citizens like you. That diamond necklace belongs to the royal lineage and we had a tip-off that the thieves had entered the cinema hall. Only we didn't imagine them to slip it into Ms. Megha's bag."
Santrupti smiled at her friend, who'd accompanied her to the station.
"It was my duty, sir. It's a good thing I saw them doing it while Megha was so involved in the movie. I then clicked their pictures during the interval, before of course taking the necklace out of Megha's bag and slipping it into my jeans."