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Priyanka sat in the lobby and looked around. A constable arrived with a coffee cup in a tray. She smiled and declined.
“Have it madam, please,” he insisted. She took the cup from him hesitantly.
She’d never visited a police station, or the commissioner's office before. She sipped and waited. A few minutes later she was summoned to the superintendent’s chambers.
She parted the green curtain. “Sir, may I come in?”
She’d expected to see an elderly officer, but the person sitting in the room was not more than 45, she guessed.
“Please come, Ms. Priyanka..please sit. I’m Vikram Shetty, DoSP.” They shook hands. Priyanka sat opposite him gingerly.
“Just a minute,” he said and went over a few pages in a file. She nodded.
He closed the file after a few moments, took his glasses off and reclined, smiling warmly at her. But for his uniform, she’d have thought she was with her doctor.
“So, tell me ma’am. How do you know Chandrakanth?”
“Sir, actually, I don’t know him.”
She narrated the whole story, right from Siddharth’s car bumping into her scooter, to him dropping her back home.
Deafening silence for a few moments. Vikram’s face was serious. He was twisting his mouth in every possible way, trying to create a structure out of the sequence of events she just told him. He then looked at her.
“That’s it? After that, you haven’t met him?”
“You don’t even know his number or whereabouts?”
She shook her head.
“You’re a brave woman, Ms. Priyanka. He’s a total stranger, and you agreed to sit in his car, that too on a rainy evening? Why?”
She shrugged. “Sir, he was alone. And..moreover, he looked decent, and..well, I carry mace with me, so..it wasn’t like I didn’t try. No auto was ready to stop, or take me to corporation circle. He said, he was going the same direction. Traffic was dense. What could he have done?”
Vikram laughed and nodded. “Yes, yes. True, but..you should have been careful. See, now you have spoken to me. Of course, I’ll keep it confidential – the press or anybody else, won’t know about it, but..you never know, right? These are powerful people, ma’am. We’re there to protect you, that’s there…”
“Sir…you’re scaring me now,” Priyanka laughed nervously. “I thought by coming clean, you could probably even protect Siddharth. I’m more worried about him. He has that bag and gun…”
“Ah, speaking of the bag. You're sure you didn’t open the bag there?”
“And Siddharth said he’d open the bag later.”
“Yeah. Actually he first wanted to drop me home, safe.”
“Hmmm,” Vikram said. “That was a wise thing to do, to keep you out of it.”
“And he also told me that if he found something really dangerous, he’d come to the police.”
“I’d have expected you both to come to us, irrespective of what was in the bag. See now, we will have to book him under charges of hiding things from us. Right?”
Priyanka looked worried. Vikram smiled. “See, it’s bailable. He needn’t worry, but he should’ve come to us no? You say he’s possessing a gun. That’s an offense. It doesn’t belong to him. But since you were honest, we can be a little lenient with him. Provided, he co-ooperates. Right?”
“But sir, we both were taken by surprise, the way Chandrakanth got into the car. He had the gun pointed at us all the time. And what happened on the highway was purely an accident. Siddharth only took it from him as self-defence. We were in fact about to return his bag and gun, when ...when the other car hit him. So...there was no time to think at all. Maybe he couldn’t come to you because somebody already threatened him, or something. Maybe the bad guys got to him first? That's what worries me...”
Vikram laughed. “You watch a lot of movies, I think, Ms. Priyanka. It doesn’t happen like that.”
Priyanka smiled sheepishly. She was now unsure if she did the right thing by coming here.
Boy, did I put that guy into trouble now?
“Hmm. Anyway, you don't worry, we'll take it from here, Ms. Priyanka,” Vikram said. “I'll let you know if I find Siddharth, or make any other progress. Meanwhile, if Siddharth contacts you, please inform us. Ask him to talk to us, please. I do appreciate your humaneness, yeah? Now, please give all the details in writing. The staff will help you.” He called out to a constable.
A moment later, she was escorted out, to another table. A constable handed her a pen and note pad. She thought for a minute, then started writing.
Babu was muttering something into his cell phone incoherently. Deviprasad, who'd walked up behind him just then, could only hear “oh, is it? Is it? Ok, ok. Oh, great. Ha ha. This is nice. When? Ok. Yeah, tail her. Get me details by evening.”
Babu hadn’t seen Devi Prasad coming, so he was a little surprised. Devi Prasad chuckled. “What were you saying, tail her? Hmm? Who’s this new-found interest, Babu? Huh?” He ribbed him. Babu laughed and waved him away.
“Oh, nothing..just some small time actress. Our friend Deepu has fallen for her, I believe, so I was telling the boys to keep a watch on her.”
Both of them laughed.
They spoke for a while and then Devi Prasad left. In reality, Babu had received information about Priyanka’s visit to the SP’s office. Now he rose to get himself a drink. He took a sip and thought – “Mallik, you unfortunate son-of-a-bitch. I’ll bring you down to your knees now. Just you watch.”
To be continued...