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Priyanka looked at the videos, her eyes wide. Vikram stood beside her, hand on his chin.
“Isn’t that how it happened, Ms. Priyanka?”
“Yes. That’s the car alright. But…”
“Looks like he knew he had to get into your car, right?” Vikram said.
Priyanka looked at him and nodded again. She swallowed hard, her face pale. Vikram smiled. “That’s because, he knew Babu and Chandrakanth.”
He didn’t allow her to speak. “Now..Ms. Priyanka, I want you to see something else.” He pulled out some pictures from another envelope and placed them in front of her.
She flipped through them, one by one. It was an under-construction site, taken at night, by some teenagers who seemed to be drinking there. They were having fun, evidently. She didn’t understand why the officer was showing her this. She looked up at him.
Vikram stepped closed and pointed a finger at something else in the picture.
“What..?” She began, and then she saw. It was the same maruti 800.
“It’s Siddharth’s car. What’s he doing here? He’s not with these guys.”
“Yes, he’s not here. Because at that moment, he was up on the 9th floor of the same high-rise. The night Swaroop Hegde was shot dead. He used a telescopic rifle.”
Priyanka looked dazed.
“We chanced upon these pictures later, during investigation. Got it from one of the witnesses, who had some pictures of that building, and told us about the parked car. Of course, they wouldn’t know Siddharth was up there, right at that time. But my colleague, who’s working on this case, gave these to me. We believe, Siddharth is the same guy in both these places. Siddharth Mallik.”
Priyanka waited for it to come.
“We need your help to bring him in, Ms. Priyanka.”
Priyanka started living in a daze, not really believing what she had gotten herself into. But Vikram had assured her safety, and that his men were watching her, guarding her every moment.
She slowly realized that Vikram was right. There always seemed to be men, watching her house, watching her when she went to work; she’d see men take turns and appoint themselves across the street, in plain clothes of course. While it gave her a strange sense of security, it also made her sad within. She’d not expected Siddharth to turn out to be a killer, to say the least. And he’d definitely contact her. Suddenly, she feared. Everything seemed uncertain. But then this was the same guy who had dropped her home safely that night. He could’ve done anything with her. But he didn’t. She wondered what that was all about then, Chandrakanth barging into the car, and taking them both hostage. If Siddharth and he knew each other, why the drama? She cursed the evening when she bumped into his car. She should’ve just walked back home. She loved getting wet anyway. It would’ve been fun. Now see.
The beauty parlor was teeming with clients over the weekend. It was getting hotter, and Priyanka was the fourth in line. The air conditioner in the waiting room was of no use. She picked up a magazine on the rack and flipped through the pages for the nth time. Just then her phone rang.
She recognized the voice immediately. The number was unknown – probably a pay phone.
“Priyanka, we need to talk. Can we meet?”
Priyanka looked around. Her heart was pounding. This was the moment Vikram had told her about.
“Where are you?”
“ Meet me at the Blue Nile pub at 7 pm sharp.”
“And, Priyanka. Please don't bring your ‘khakhi’ friends along.”
The line went dead. She stared at her phone. He knew about the cops. Shit.
Back at the SP’s office, Vikram took off the head-phones, and turned at his men.
“Blue Nile”, he said.
Around 5.45 in the evening, Priyanka rode out of her house, surprised that her ‘watch-men’ were missing in action. She was planning to shake their trail off anyway. She sighed and moved on. The Blue Nile was on the other end of town, literally – reaching there by 7 pm meant wading through traffic. She decided to take a short-cut; one that was less crowded. Around 6.20 she turned right at the Victoria layout junction and continued up. She didn’t notice the blue maruti van that overtook her, and slowed down in front of her.
The van stopped without any warning, pissing her off.
“Hey,” she started, braking hard. She was almost about to bump into the van. Not again! Thank God, not much traffic here, else…
She thanked God too soon. Two masked men got out of the van and walked to her. One of them folded his hands.
Before she could even realize what had happened, they gagged her and bundled her into the van. There were two other men waiting inside. They tied her up, closed the van door closed and sped away, the first guy trailing behind, on her scooter.
To be concluded...