Anshuman was still in a daze as he walked into his condo later that night. He was aching from the sudden run and fall, not to mention the scuffle with that woman. He didn’t know who those people were. But they had blindfolded him and held him up for an hour interrogating him. He had to give them references the main being, his friend Amandeep Singh Sehgal and the latter…God bless him came to his rescue by contacting his old Army colleagues who intervened. Mission…? Fuck… what was happening…? What kind of mission did those people have in Passion…? He had to visit again but for now, he had to stop his limbs from trembling. The adrenaline had flown away and fear now set in. Why did he feel everything he was facing had something to do with Meera… Oh dear God… where was his sister headed…? She didn’t even know what hit her… his poor naïve sister. Did Simrat mean all this would transpire? How did she know and how on earth was Manpreet involved…? Was Simrat scared to be associated with him? Nothing made sense…
Sudden spikes in anxiety left him panting as he lay on the cold times in his living room and sleep had gone away hours ago. He suddenly stood up after an hour. He didn’t know what came over him, he walked outside his house and along the beach towards the clove… he just wanted to be close to her… Simrat. Something about her always calmed him and now that he knew she lived so close he couldn’t help himself. It was about 3 AM… and he walked outside along the roaring sea, the black infinity reminding him about his life right now. Suddenly his life felt like that black hole where nothing could escape the spacetime area. Could he just time travel to a decade ago…?
There was not a soul there right now as he walked towards the clove. As he neared it he saw someone walk outside the house through the gate and shut it. The person was covered with something like a shawl and he hid quickly at the side of the clove. Darkness favored him and he couldn’t be seen. Was it a thief…? he wondered… no.. a thief wouldn’t be so calm in escaping. The person had an awkward gait…
Suddenly breeze increased its violent streak and the shawl blew off the person’s head and Anshuman didn’t need light to tell him it was Simrat. Where on earth was she going at this ungodly hour..? She was hugging herself protectively and there was something strange in the way she walked… he couldn’t make out in the dark though. What kind of hotel called their employees so late at night…? His protective radar was on red alert. She was rushing along the shore and he followed her from a safe distance. In the noise dominated by the sea, his footsteps were camouflaged. She moved away from the beach and began to walk along the empty silent streets, dimly lit by minimally present streetlights. What he loved best about Goa was he didn’t find a single homeless destitute lying drunk or sleeping on the pavement. At least where he lived and where all he had been so far. He brought his focus back to the intriguing woman.
He didn’t know why he didn’t stop her but just continued to tread the same path. They walked for about twenty minutes and she reached the auto stand and quickly got into one of the only two standing autos. Being close to the outstation bus stop he was fortunate to find another auto and getting into that one he instructed the driver to follow the first auto. After about half an hour of the back-breaking ride, they reached a place which he got to know was Benaulim town.
He got off a little away in the dark and kept following her with queries hovering on his mind. She moved towards the thicket and as it cleared she walked into the gate of a three-storied white-colored building. The security guard knew her and allowed her access to the inner sanctum where she disappeared. Anshuman stood across the premises hidden in the dark and just as he strained to see her disappearing silhouette he read the glow signboard. “ Annie Gomes home for women”. He was still irked by her bizarre gait when he saw another printed board next to it with a long list of honorary doctors and as he read the visible boards he realized it was a home for the terminally ill and destitute women. Why on earth did Simrat come here…that too at the dead of the night…? If he stood for a longer time, he would call for attention not to mention the nocturnal creepy-crawlies…
As he rode back to Varca, his mystery woman, he realized was just the tip of an iceberg… What were you hiding Simrat…? And the biggest question of all how was her life linked with his…? The more he tried to analyze the more the astute businessman in him was puzzled… He had his job cut out… he had to visit Passion again.
But if things had to pan out the way humans planned, his sister would have been alive today. Around 8 AM that morning as he freshened after an hour of sleep still groggy, he got a call from Nirvi. If she called so early that meant she had something important to talk about.
Smiling he answered it. “…Hello Nirvika… how are you…?”
“…All good Anshuman… um… there is something I had to tell you…”
“…What is it…? Everyone all right there…?”
“…Yes yes… we are all doing good… but worried about you there…”
His friends were so caring… he was blessed. He chuckled. “…I am good Nirvika…so what’s it…?”
“…Um… Anshuman… you have to visit Mumbai for a day or two… immediately…”
He suddenly sat up. “…Why… what is it…?”
“…Um… do you remember Rewa Nagarajan from the SOP (Special Operatives on Prowl), a unit of Crime branch…? She was the one instrumental in resolving our case… She had found out about your …. Um… sister…”
Anshuman sighed and nodded. “…Yea… I remember…so… what happened…?”
“…she is visiting Mumbai for a training program for police officers and wanted to share some intel with us… she has requested your presence as well…”
“…Me…? what have I got to do…?”
“…Anshuman we know why you are in Goa… so… maybe Rewa’s information may help you… we are all with you Anshuman…”
“…so when do I have to come…?” his head was reeling.
“…Today… take the earliest flight… there is one in two hours… if you leave now, you can reach on time… shall I book it for you…?”
Anshuman inhaled deeply his emotions scattering all over the place. “… all right Nirvika… I shall be there…”
After they hung up he quickly packed his bare essentials and called for a cab. Before going he called Manpreet’s grandmother and spoke with the boy. Though disappointed Manpreet promised to practice all that they had learned yesterday. Once Anshuman boarded the flight to Mumbai, he got busy with his long-awaited online search…Kader Shah. the entire hour he browsed through the available articles. Kader was a management graduate student from the prestigious NMIMS in Mumbai. He had built his hospitality conglomerate from scratch in Pune, with minimal seed capital, and had now ventured in two other places in the country. Passion was his third acquisition. The astute businessman in Anshuman couldn’t help but appreciate the upward growth of the charismatic man. Passion was a loss-making night club and Anshuman had seen for himself how Kader had turned it around already. Looked like the man had the Midas touch.
He alighted the airplane and hired a cab to reach Vedshastra the pharmaceutical company specializing in generic drugs and research for rare genetic disorders. It belonged to his friend and Nirvika’s brother Keshav Goyal… actually to be precise it belonged to his wife Avanti. Anshuman had invested last year into the Vedshastra nursing home which was growing in leaps and bounds. He had plans to invest further if need be.
As the cab breezed along the Bandra-Kurla complex he wondered what kind of intel had the crime branch received that Rewa was going beyond her means to convey it to them… The seeds of his fate were already sown… he had been fighting with his destiny for a decade now. It was time he made Destiny a matter of choice….
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