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Siddharth was sitting in one of Mallesh’s cars. The tinted windows up, he watched Priyanka alight from her scooter and walk into a super market. As he looked in his rear view mirror, he saw two men get down from a bike and cross the road towards a pan shop. They bought cigarettes and stood chatting.
Cops. He knew them, had seen them.
A half hour later, Priyanka came out of the super market and headed home. Siddharth saw the two men get on the bike and follow her.
Damn, the cops knew about her. But how? Did they know about him as well?
He had to get in touch with her. In person. Calling her would be suicide. He turned the car on the wide road and sped away. He didn’t notice the blue maruti van that followed the bike.
It was almost 11pm when Deepu called Babu. He was parked a cross road away from Priyanka’s house, head lights off.
“Boss, the cops are keeping a watch on her. 24/7. No, I don’t think she knows,” said Deepu.
He then gave Babu some more details of her movements. “No, she hasn’t met any guy today. She went to work, did some groceries and headed home. Yes.”
Babu gave him instructions about another job and asked him to return.
Vikram Shetty got home a little past midnight. He had a spare key. He entered the house and headed straight to the bedroom. His wife was asleep, and so was their 12 year old daughter, in the other room. He went to her, kissed her forehead and walked out silently. He heard her call out in her sleep, smile and turn over. He changed and walked to the dining table, and saw that the parcel had arrived.
He sat down and opened it. He’d asked Pratap to have it send over home since he was busy with other paperwork at office. He pulled out the two discs from the packet, and went to his study. He flipped open his laptop, and turned on the table lamp.
A few moments later, he was watching at the video grabs he had requested for.
Since it was raining, the video was grainy. The Brigade junction grab was virtually useless. He could barely make out the shapes of vehicles. Plus a couple of street lights had conked out, adding to his woes. He clucked in frustration, and pulled out the other disc – the residency road junction.
He watched for anything unusual. According to Priyanka, Chandrakanth had gotten inside their car a little after 7.30 pm. The video from this grab was slightly better, but still the rain played spoilsport. He kept watching and pausing the video wherever he felt he sensed something. Then he did sense something.
Yes. It was someone getting into a car. And it was a maruti 800. So Priyanka was right – God bless her. He replayed that part again. But then, as he moved the cursor a few seconds back, he noticed something else. Chandrakanth seemed to cross the road from the sidewalk, where a couple of men stood – and get into the car unhurried and relaxed, as if he knew that was the car he was supposed to get into. Didn’t look like he picked some random car, like she’d mentioned.
He played the entire video again, this time looking out for the sidewalks as well. Chandrakanth seemed to be talking to someone before crossing the street. He paused and moved the cursor back. He paused when he thought he could somewhat make out the other person he was talking to. The other guy seemed to be pointing Chandrakanth towards the car. Who was it? Damn.
He put on his glasses, and went to the settings. Did this player have a zoom? The video was awful as it is. He wondered why they couldn’t grab this in at least dvd quality.
Ah, it has zoom.
He zoomed the part a bit. Looked grainier but some details he could make out. That hair do was familiar. Unmistakable in fact.
“Son of a gun. Chandru ran away. My foot. Then, what are you doing here, my friend?” Vikram said, softly, so as to not wake up the girls.
He played the video normally a few more times. Yes, it was them alright. Babu stood there, pointing Chandrakanth to the car. Chandrakanth got into the car.
But according to Priyanka said, he car-jacked them. Vikram was a bit confused now. Who was telling the truth? Certainly not Babu. Chandrakanth, God bless his soul, couldn’t answer him even if he wanted to. Priyanka…well, if she were involved in all this, she wouldn’t have come to him in the first place. Which meant she had no inkling about all this. So, did she or did she not know Siddharth? Probably not.
That left only Siddharth. Hmm. Who’s this character, and if he knew Chandrakanth and Babu, what was he doing with the gun and bag? What was in the bag?
It was late, but Vikram decided to take a chance. He dialed a number.
“Hello,” he said after a few rings.
“Subbu, sorry to bother you at this time. I need to know about a certain Siddharth. Heard of him? Especially his contacts with the Hegde family. Swaroop Hegde, yes. More so, what is his business with Babu. Ok. Ok, fine..good.”
Subbu was an informer, who went way back with Vikram. He trusted him more than his own men.
Priyanka was woken up rudely by her mobile phone, the next day. She squinted her eyes; damn – it was seven already. She then looked at the number. It was Vikram Shetty, the cop. Oh good, maybe he had some information about Siddharth.
“Hello?” She tried to hide the coarseness of her ‘just-woke-up-now’ voice.
“Good morning, Ms. Priyanka. Vikram Shetty here.”
“Good morning, sir.” She went and closed the door of her bedroom. “Tell me , sir.”
“Did I disturb you…were you..?”
“Oh no, no, sir. I’m awake.”
“Ok. Now..I have some information, but you have to understand this is confidential. And ..of course, you’ll have to come down to my office in the morning. My men will be there to escort you.”
Why are his men escorting me? Am I the chief minister?
“No, it’s ok sir. I’ll come on my own. Please don’t take the trouble..”
“Not trouble, Ms. Priyanka. As security.”
“Why, sir, what has happened?”
“It’s about Siddharth.”
Her heart skipped a beat now. “Why, sir..what has happened to him?”
“No, no..nothing has happened to him. But Ms. Priyanka. You must be very very careful now.”
Damn it, don’t behave like my public admin. Professor, spell it out, man. She felt like throwing her mobile phone at the cop.
“Siddharth is not what you thought he is, Ms. Priyanka.”
“Meaning? I haven’t thought anything about him, as yet.”
“He’s a contract killer. And his full name is Siddharth Mallik.”
She was already feeling a little woozy on an empty stomach, this morning. This piece of information made her sicker.
“Yes..you heard me right, Ms. Priyanka. I can’t give you more details on the phone. Please come to my office by about 9.30. I need you to see and verify something. Don't worry, my men will follow you.”
“Ok,” Priyanka said blankly, the mobile slipping away from her hand, and she sunk back on the bed.
To be continued…