ACP Ramanrao Pradhan was a name to reckon with. The burly six feet tall man just short of his sixtieth birthday stared into the full-length mirror in the police quarters at Nagpur. He was retiring next week and moving to Mumbai… the city of dreams… his dreams. Dreams that were shattered years ago and had picked up with a snail’s pace, and he had to add the needed impetus.
He twirled his handlebar mustache, his pride, even as his doting wife Uma brought in the tray of piping hot filter coffee…She followed the routine diligently 30 years after marriage. They were issueless but that didn’t deter them from enjoying life to the fullest… till a few years ago, he hadn’t given her much time, and he regretted it. She had spiraled into depression, and it had taken her suicide attempt to come to his senses and take a transfer stopping all the extracurricular work that increased his pay now stashed safely in banks outside the country. It was his nest egg yet to pop… He had to fill it more.
But the transfer had worked in Uma’s favor. She had thrived and started her own online business. She designed clothes… Just like her classmate from those years ago. That woman had started his downfall. Someone whom he had blindly trusted just because she was Uma’s friend. He had thought she was a family woman would look the other way so far as he was giving her payments. But she had betrayed his trust.
Why did people hold morals so high up in the order?
Everything was going well. He had to make a little more money, and then he had thought of taking voluntary retirement and settling in Dubai. His crony, who worked as his right-hand man both at home and in his office in Mumbai, Rafiq had done well covering his tracks. Murdering someone neatly was easy for the man. His dimwit worked in Pradhan’s favour. He didn’t have to fear the guy ratting him out or becoming greedy.
Being a policeman gave a perfect cover to his covert operations. All he had to do was stop patrolling near the docks as the containers came in or pass the hint of a raid on a particular brothel. A few wads of notes worked wonders in shutting mouths, and since Rafiq and a few clueless guys under him did the dirty work, he was nowhere in the picture. He had covered all loose ends, so nothing got back to him. He could study people well and knew whose weak points he could strangulate and get the maximum out of them.
He got rid of unwanted people, too it wasn’t rocket science, and he had emerged untouched. But he didn’t envision two possibilities: first his wife, whom he loved above everything, losing it in the mental health department, and second, sub-inspector Manohar Shinde, whom he had misjudged the big time.
Uma had been admitted to the psychiatric ward of the super specialty hospital the day he was to receive a consignment. The women were from Russia and not over 20. Very young women brought in the maximum moolah, and since they weren’t from the country, no one would know where they disappeared. So he had made arrangements for their stay across his special partners, one of them and the most premier one in Mudh island, Rakesh Batra.
Rakesh had been an easy catch. The man was a hardcore womanizer and had a dwindling business in the form of a good for nothing factory in Virar. The location was perfect to ‘teach people a lesson or get rid of the unwanted ones. The factory was a huge front for all his nefarious deeds. He had helped the man get a loan through unscrupulous means to buy out that huge house that served as the ‘storehouse’ for his new conquests till they were auctioned off.
In return, Rakesh got a massive payout for each consignment to fuel his alcoholism.
Manohar Shinde was newly in charge of the special wing made by Mumbai Police for curbing human trafficking twelve years ago. Like his predecessors, Pradhan had tried to buy him out too… but he had staunchly refused. The man had been crazy and neurotically involved in the case. He had made it his mission to catch the mastermind and once almost got close to catching Rafiq. Though he needn’t have worried, something in the man’s zeal caught his eye. Manohar Shinde was a workaholic.
When Uma was admitted that night Manohar and his team caught a consignment at the docks but fortunately, it only contained few women, and a couple of them had died in transition. The women didn’t speak the local language, and he had prearrangement with Rafiq to silence the men on the ship. So besides frantic women screaming their lungs out, Manohar Shinde landed with nothing. But it was enough to raise red flags amongst their Russian counterparts.
He had to do something and found out about Manohar’s family. His beautiful wife seemed familiar, and it struck him he had seen her in the picture book belonging to his wife. His elephant’s memory had served him well. So he had arranged for that woman to visit his wife and Uma had been so happy that she had recovered very soon. She, along with Mrs. Rajani Shinde had planned to start a business…
He had been happy and had thought of using Rajani as bait to threaten Manohar. He had requested Rakesh to involve her in some ‘textile’ aspect of his business that gave her income. The naïve woman had readily agreed, and he had finally heaved a sigh of relief to see his plan go on track.
Yet again, his fate had other plans… he hadn’t envisioned Rakesh… the womanizer, to fall in love with Rajani, and not only that, the woman reciprocated too. She began to visit Rakesh’s home frequently, and during one of her visits, she saw the basement room at Mudh island with a couple of women held captive.
She had realized almost immediately what was going on and had decided to become the whistleblower. Before that, she had gathered all the data and their ledger details. He had been in the dark, but Rakesh had found her out once. The woman had been brave when confronted, and Rakesh had almost let her go without any evidence in her hands.
But he was Ramanrao Pradhan, and he hadn’t risen up to this level in the illegal business so easily or by being forgiving. He had ordered Rafiq to get Rajani out of the way. She also knew Rafiq since he was always home serving her food and drinks whenever she visited Uma. It was easy. But then Rakesh had been acting like a lost puppy. And Manohar had upped his ante. It was a dangerous situation.
It was easy to get rid of the drunk Rakesh Batra. The guy didn’t even know how Rafiq made him hold the pistol and aim at his temple. Rakesh had stolen copies of the ledger from the factory locker. They had arranged to search the Mudh Island bungalow but found nothing. Would his son know something?
For Monoher, he decided to make use of his anger issues. It took a while. He was the predator who awaited his prey…
Pushing a sloshed Manohar before the arriving train was no big deal.
He had arranged for the closure of the case involving Rajani’s disappearance and passing Manohar’s death as suicide. He had also gone over the top and made arrangements to put it on records as an accident so the guy could get benefits. So he had tilted the department respect in his favor. So also a grieving Uma who missed her dear friend. She had been sick for months after Rajani left, and he couldn’t watch her wilt away.
He straightened out on the chair in the balcony attached to the bedroom, watching his beautiful wife tend to the kitchen garden, his phone buzzed with an incoming text. His mood plummeted reading it. The moron Rafiq was no good these days. How many chances did he have to give the buffoon?
That man KB unlike his father had many lives like a cat. He survived not just once but twice… Once a few days back and once when he had spiked his drink with a heavy dosage of the date rape drug enough to stone an elephant… knowing he would go home. It was planned to the tee. The blame would befall Manohar Shinde.
The empty trailer he had arranged too was perfect in execution… only KB’s friends had died, and he had escaped unscathed.
He had to get more information now. This Rafiq was an idiot and a white elephant. He had also heard Rafiq’s alcoholism had crossed boundaries, and it wouldn’t be long before the fool blurted out everything. When Rakesh’s son KB tried to buy out the Virar factory, he had been cautious. He later learned of some investigating agency prying on their associates. He couldn’t afford any lapses… his reputation was at stake, not to mention the money waiting for him.
He stood leaning on the balcony railing. He had come a long way treading on innumerable bodies, and he wouldn’t go back now. The Russian syndicate had given him a good offer five years ago, and the work had restarted… But this time he would lose the garb of the uniform soon…
He had to be careful. Very careful. He walked to the mirror again and wore his uniform. He raised his sleeve at the arm to reveal the swastika tattoo… the one with a bent arm.