Ria held her head as a fresh bout of nausea took over when the rickety car traveled over a graveled road, the jerks causing the fireworks shining behind her closed eyelids. After about half an hour they reached another secluded location. This time it was a bungalow. Ria couldn’t make out anything…just the soft glow of the lamp at the entrance of the house. Though the perimeter was pitch dark, a couple of rooms upstairs had their lights on… albeit not brightly lit and the curtains were drawn across the windows. Ria was totally lost about her whereabouts and all her thoughts were centered on a certain ruggedly handsome man she had left behind and her eyes welled up when she wondered if she would ever get to see him again…. The two men drove away with the car.
“Hey…look… don’t try anything smart…OK? You don’t know who you are up against… And I have my eyes on you…Just walk straight and reach the door…” Sujata spoke n a tired voice.
Ria was in no frame of mind to argue and did as she was told. Sujata used her mobile torch light as they walked towards the entrance and rang the bell. After what seemed like an eternity, the door cracked open. Ria squinted to see but she only saw a dark form she recognized, was a man. Efore she could react, Sujata held her hand and pulled her behind her as she entered the bungalow closing the door with a bang that echoed all through the house sending vibrations through Ria’s entire being.
Bright lights suddenly flooded the area and Ria had to cover her eyes to escape the sudden onslaught on her senses… When she gradually opened her eyes, she saw a beautiful living room… the interior was chic like a dream luxury lounge with modern space. It was surrounded by huge expanse of glass with linear sofas and beautiful accent chairs there was a beautifully carved wall piece with tiny LED lights withing every intricate pattern bringing out the right hues to please the eyes. With her mouth hanging wide open she walked around slowly taking in the high-end décor and sumptuous curtains with simple breath-taking architectural features forming the end of the drawing room region. She realized; she was in the centre of the room when she heard a deep voice behind her startling her from her reverie… where the hell was, she…?
“Welcome…Ahlaan bik… welcome Miss Narsimhan. I was longing to meet you…”
She quickly turned around to see Sujata standing next to… Abdul Ansari all in flesh and blood. Ria stood stunned. She had thought of different scenarios but this was a real shocker. Ansari was dressed in a black robe with a jeweled belt tied in a knot at the side. He had the traditional scarf on his head tied with the cord which she had only seen on TV before. He exhumed an aura about him and his pictures didn’t do him any justice. He was indeed a very handsome man with intelligence sparkling in his eyes. She must have been staring at him when he interrupted her thoughts, “…Look Miss Narsimhan, forgive my English…by now you must know a little about me. But I know your uncle… he is a good man. That’s why I not harm you… I know he warned you. I …. faealt dhlk eamdana on purpose…He took information from my office…er…ex office. I planned everything to release select documents. But you didn’t make no majhud…uh… Effort. You are foolish… ‘ahmaq. That Gaurav should die…I will…qutil…kill him…”
Ria was breathing hard trying her best to focus. She had to keep him talking ad get as much information as possible… she had made her little preparation. “…I…I am not Miss Narsimhan. I am Ria Gaurav Chopra and … I am proud of that…”
“You only hear name and not what I say?” He asked in much accented English.
“Why Mr. Ansari, why are you doing all this? Gaurav is innocent. A man of your intelligence should have deduced that by now…” Ria said in a fearless voice though she was a trembling mess within.
“NO… HE IS NO INNOCENT. … he mutaal…” He yelled. “…. I lose my abn… son…because of him… “
She had to take him off track… “…Mr. Ansari, you are my uncle’s friend…aren’t you…? How did you land up in India…? Does my uncle know…?”
Abdul moved towards the sofa and gestured her to sit. For what it was worth, he was extremely cordial… He ordered refreshments and though her stomach was queasy she humoured him and accepted a soft drink… it was an awesome combination of different fruit essences… embedded in the rose flavour. Something she had never tasted before and she felt calm in the situation. Sujata sat too but she looked bored and not interested at all in what Adbul had to say. Abdul starred at the the wall piece she had liked and spoke in a voice laden with melancholy. “…I was doing well in US… good money… but my abn… he was tifl mashakis… naughty child. His ‘um… mother… couldn’t handle… so I …back to Dubai… I love my abn so much… Gave up the force, important projects… for him… but no use… he die…all because of your alzawj… husband…” He rubbed a hand over his fatigued face and for a moment she saw a father’s anguish written all over. If she hadn’t known better, she would have fallen for the charade… As if he was still in his memory lane, Adbul continued. “…I left Dubai… took all money… went to Brazil… facelift wanted to change appearance slightly… in case facial recognition came up… I couldn’t take risk… I had to reach India at all cost…” She wondered what kind of change had happened… as she immediately recognised him! But why did this man who had money to fill huge chests from what she had known, have to do this work on his own… had to travel all the way…As if reading her thoughts, he continued. “… My abn was everything… only one child…I want revenge… antiqam… I gave work to people here… all useless…aghbia…bafoons… So I personally come…finish everything…”
Ria had enough “…I am sorry about your son Mr. Ansari. But he had overdosed in jail. I have seen the postmortem report….” She saw his eyes widen at the mention of his son’s reports. He didn’t refute so she continued. “…so how can you blame it on Gaurav…? He was punished for no fault of his….”
“…HE WAS RESPONSIBLE. …” Abdul roared. “…He kill his… zawja… wife… and Saquib go into depression… He loved Shilpi…” The man was exasperating and Ria’s patience was hanging by tenterhooks at this nightly hour.
“…Gaurav didn’t kill Shilpi… She fell into the fire which she herself had caused….” Ria tried to explain.
“…Don’t you dare accuse my sister…” It was Sujata this time. She was fuming. “…You make her sound like a psycho. My little sister…she was a troubled soul. Gaurav didn’t treat her well. He refused her a divorce….”
Was she such a dimwit? “…Why would he refuse her the divorce? He did not want to stay in the marriage anyways. Your sister…was …cheating on him with Saquib…”
“…My sister…. may have slept with …Saquib but she wanted out of the marriage to marry Saquib…”
“…oh please… She wanted out with a partnership in his hospital. She didn’t want the money he was offering. Sujata… you have misunderstood everything from the start…” Ria was tired of talking to her now. Abdul walked towards the window overlooking the patio and the swimming pool, muttering something about women and their catfights… Ria looked around and saw to of his gunmen guarding the drawing room where she sat with Sujata.
“I told her not to settle for anything less than partnership… She was pregnant. How would she support herself in case she didn’t marry Saquib later…?” Sujata snapped at her.
Ria had to tread carefully. She didn’t want to antagonize Sujata much. She wanted to bide time for Gaurav and Keith till they found her. She knew they would move heaven and earth for her… Suddenly Abdul came and stood before them. “I… am not concerned with anything else but revenge for… my abn… I was almost najih… success… with that recent case. I would have drugged him in jail. I arrange to kill him by that criminal fake fight and all. But Gaurav fight back… He now strong… Then in court…you came and spoil all plans. My money was waste. So, you will help me now… I know Gaurav yuhbik…love you… Gaurav come for you and I kill him…”
Ria looked at him wide eyed.
“…listen man…Don’t forget to make him sign papers…” Sujata reminded Ansari.
He looked at her and didn’t react. He looked at Ria and without any expression he said. “I like Ashok… If I tell I here in India… he is CBI…sharp…find out everything…So hiding from him… But I like my son more. He… died… I have nothing to lose. Gaurav coming for you… for sure. We wait…” He told him men something in Arabic and turned towards Ria. “… I am in my office upstairs… My men everywhere…. So, no being stupid. I know when Gaurav come… Till then… tusbih ealaa khayr…good night.”
Ria sat on the beautiful couch. She was tired but on high alert. Her happiness that Gaurav would somehow track her using her clues, was short-lived…. He would be walking straight into a trap. She hoped he didn’t turn up… she didn’t want to die but if something happened to him then she would die of heartbreak anyways… what would she do…?
Sujata too sat sulking on the opposite couch and put her legs up on the center table.
Ria looked at her. “…You knew about your sister, right? The truth, that is…?”
Sujata gave her a cunning smile. “…My sister was a puppet in my hands….” she looked away lost in thought.
Ria wanted to encourage her to talk. She said, “You… mean Shilpi did as you said?”
“Yes of course. I brought her up…. like my own child. She was twelve years younger to me… Can you Imagine a tough life…? In a place like Dubai… My father was a useless man. He caused a huge debt before he died. Unlike in India, there things are strict. We couldn’t leave Dubai. My mom was always ill. I left my studies midway and worked two jobs so that Shilpi could study. She became a nurse. I saw the opening in Chopra group and asked her to apply. I taught her how to face interviews with confidence and how to use her beauty and charm…” Sujata smiled staring at the wall…lost in thought. Then she sat up and exclaimed. “…It worked and she got in. Then once, I saw Gaurav. Rich and young scion of the entire group. Imagine the money they would have. So, she used what I had taught her …the art of seduction…. But the asshole wouldn’t agree to sleep with her, let alone marry….”
“…so, that party trick was yours? I thought Shilpi planned it….” Ria prodded
“…. What…Shilpi and planning? She was a dimwit. She did as I told her. She spiked Gaurav’s drink with a date rape drug. He didn’t even know what hit him. I planned it all. It was me. It worked and they got married. The first months were blissful…. I left my job. Shilpi would spend on me. We would go shopping and she would buy me whatever I wanted. For once I lived like a queen… But then she had to ruin it all……” She looked around and continued in a low voice, “…… She fell in love with Saquib. He was handsome… beautiful eyes…c olourful scarf on his head… too good but… he was a drug addict…useless son of a bitch…just wanted money. So, I planned again. It was all me…I planned a divorce and threatened filing a case of domestic violence. I prepared both of them… I told Shilpi to speak about Gaurav being violent at home…you know…just throwing subtle hints, wherever she went…anyway that moron was never at home or even spoke to her to realise all this brewing behind his back…” Ria was stunned… how could this woman be so selfish. As if in a trance Sujata continued. “…I told them to get him sign the partnership papers. He could have signed and the other board members would have done too to avoid scandal… My Shilpi could become a sleeping partner and Saquib and she could continue seeing each other. I need not have bothered about making ends meet. …But she was an impulsive idiot and ruined everything….”
She continued, “….in spite of Shilpi dying, I didn’t relent. Saquib was devastated. I taught him to lie in court and accuse Gaurav. He agreed. I would have made an out of court settlement with the Chopras for a huge sum and then make him a hostile witness… and then left the country for good… But somehow, they found him out early as well as all the dirt on him. He was already slipping into depression and withdrew his testimony… you know what Ria…? I have always been surrounded by idiots…”
Ria was filled with rage. “…Sujata…you have ruined so many lives. I hope Mr. Ansari sees through your façade…”
Sujata laughed her evil laughter that pierced Ria’s ears. “I only want money…I deserve it. Gaurav has made a lot of money last six years while I lived a hand to mouth existence… I want that money now. That stupid uncle of yours was of no use… If you had left Gaurav, I would have ruined him easily. But now… because of you, he will sign it off to me…. you will see…”
Ria chuckled. “…You are living in a fool’s paradise Sujata. You never understood Gaurav. He is a very honourable and a strong man. Even if I would have left him….in a hypothetical situation that is, you wouldn’t have got a dime…” Ria told her looking into her eyes.
Sujata turned red in anger. But before she could say or do anything the lights went off. Ria smiled and remained in her seat. She heard movement and clicks …Guns…
Gaurav was restless throughout the drive. Keith refused to let him take the driver’s seat. His laptop was open and there was a GPS tracker. They were moving towards the stationary dot. He rubbed his face remembering Ria’s face when he had gifted her the necklace in Ooty. It was a custom made one and fitted with a tracker since he was always worried about her. It made good sense and his decision was now corroborated…
“…Uh…Sir…?” Keith spoke.
“…Yea…” He sighed his eyes not wavering from the dot. There were two other vehicles following them. And the Cyber cell currently handled by Naren were helping them get the coordinates of the exact location….
“…She…Ria has the watch…” Keith spoke softly.
“…Which…what…? That one…?” Gaurav was shocked and rubbed his face… “…How on earth had she known about your toy Kieth…?” Keith had a set of watches which he himself had designed and fitted them with recording devices.
“…Sir… actually…I had shown it to her the other day…” Keith looked at the road ahead as she continued. “… She…must have taken one… the sleek one …its missing…Smart move I must say…”
“…Are you sure it won’t be found out…?” Gaurav was now worried sick.
“…No… sir… be rest assured… it can even fail the signal jammers just like the pendant…look…her phone isn’t transmitting but the pendant is…isn’t it…?”
Gaurav nodded his heart filling with a sense of pride…His wife, she was brave and sensible… she had walked into the lion’s den but had also gone prepared. He fought hard to keep his anguished tears at bay…
‘Very soon…Ria… very soon… I will be there… just hang on sweetheart…I promise I will finish this game now…’ He hoped and prayed his plan would be successful… it had to be… he would see to it. It was his turn…
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