Read Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3
Swaroop Hegde, ex-gangster, and now MLA from the Chamarajendra constituency, was at a party when the call came. He excused himself and stepped out into the lawn.
“Yes, Babu. Where’s the bastard? You found him?”
He grit his teeth and waited. Then he took off his glasses. “What? When?”
He called his man Friday and asked him to get the car out of the guest parking lot. He then called the host of the party, excused himself, and drove out of the party premise, a battery of vehicles following him.
Party workers, supporters, journalists…cops - it was mayhem outside Hegde’s house. When his convoy got in, Hegde got out of his car and quickly scurried inside, where only a few people were retained and the rest were asked to wait outside. A security guard closed the door.
Hegde started pacing up and down the hall.
“How the hell did you allow this to happen, Babu?”
Babu was Hegde’s strong man, and personal body guard.
“I did send my men after him, anna, but he disappeared in the rain. And then we heard this…”
“Switch on the TV,” Hedge said absently.
There were covering the accident. Everybody in the room looked on dumbfounded. Hegde was the first to speak.
“What on earth is that? So many cars. One, two, three…there’s a fourth one there too. Huh, Babu? What’s this?”
Babu just shook his head.
“What was this guy doing on the highway, in the first place? I thought he was..”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to explain, anna. My men chased him till the General Kariappa building. He then somehow ran across just when the signal turned green, and then got lost in the crowd on Museum road. There was nothing we could do.”
“Ok, this happened inside the city. How did he land up on the highway?”
Babu didn’t have a reply.
“And the money? I’m sure he must’ve hidden it someplace before your people went after him.”
Babu looked up disappointed.
“What? Bark,” Hegde shouted.
“Anna, he had the bag with him. I saw it...”
“So? He must’ve hidden it…no wait. If he was planning to leave the city, he would obviously take it with him, why’d he leave it anyplace here, right?”
“But Swaroop, he could’ve hit the highway after hiding the money as well, right, maybe to come back for it later?”
It was Deviprasad, a close aide. He continued. “I mean..why’d he take that chance, unless..”
“Unless?” Hegde was impatient now.
“Unless he had someone waiting to drive him out of town.”
“Yes, but he’s been run over by that car there..which means he was not sitting inside one. Come on Devi, what are you saying?”
“And moreover,” Hegde continued, “he couldn’t have pre-planned it. I believe Babu’s men caught him unawares, and he escaped somehow.”
Babu nodded. But Hegde glared at him. “I still can’t figure that one out, Babu. Your men are hulks…how did you allow him to run away. How could he just escape?”
“He..he had a gun pointed at us, Anna.”
That got everyone’s attention.
“Yes, anna. He had a gun.”
“Bloody idiot – where did he get a gun from? Ok…but when he took to his heels, what were you doing? Waiting for someone to shoot an air rifle at the starting point of a race? You should’ve just pumped all your bullets into him, Babu…” Hegde said, half in frustration. “In my time, I would’ve never allowed this to happen.”
“Anna, you had only told, not to attract attention. I belong to your party…everyone knows me..and..”
“Oh yes, yes..I forgot about that.” Hegde waved his hand away.
They sat silently for a while. Then Hegde turned to Deviprasad. “Devi, get the commissioner on line. Ask him to instruct highway police, that we want a thorough investigation on this one. Don’t mention the money. And in case they found the money, tell them it was part of our election funds, and that he was running away with it.”
“Two and a half crores is not a small amount to just…just lose, like marbles” Hegde said, looking at his men.
Priyanka sat glued to the TV. Her mom passed her by twice and raised her eyebrows. “What’s so important about that horrible accident? I’ve never seen you peel your eyes at a local news channel, of all the things..”
Priyanka wasn’t listening. She was swallowing hard, unable to stomach what she was hearing and seeing on the telly. The guy who’d car-jacked them was an accountant who worked in the private offices of MLA Swaroop Hegde. His name was Chandrakanth. He was run over by one Mr. Deshpande, who was on his way to Mysore. She craned her ears some more. Chandrakanth had died on the spot, and…Goodness – Deshpande had survived the accident, but critical. He had been admitted to some hospital in Mysore.
Priyanka clenched her teeth. God, Siddharth…I hope you’re seeing this. What added to her frustration was that Siddharth had not even left a number. And she didn’t know enough about his whereabouts. In fact, she had no clue where he lived. Damn.
She then composed herself. Her mom was coming out of the kitchen again. Priyanka changed the channels and pretended to browse.
To be continued…