Gaurav’s anxiety was increasing by leaps and bounds… he had his plan in place. There was no one more experienced and reliable that Keith… he wished to tell Ria about Keith someday. She would be thrilled to know about this man… But for now, they had to get her back safely. He didn’t even care what would happen to Sujata or whoever was there… he was told Abdul Ansari was hiding in that hole…. All he wanted was to get Ria and her sister to safety. Putting his hand in his pocket he pulled out the crumpled letter Ria had left in the store. Yes, they had followed the tracker to the store. The owner lay unconscious and Gaurav had looked all over along with the Crime Branch guys checking for clues, though it was taking a while he knew Ria was here for a reason. The CCTV cameras didn’t help but he could finally guess the cubicle she was in. He had then found the polythene with the clothes in it and the letter… it was as if Ria knew he would come for her. He fought back tears trying to control the surge of emotions…. The magnitude of trust the woman had in his abilities was unfathomable. He opened the crumpled piece of paper that he had hidden from the others…
In case I don’t make it today… promise to live your life fully…for both of us. Remember you are the most handsome and whole man on Earth…and if you don’t believe that watch yourself through my eyes.
I love you so much, my heart calls out to you… it always will…
He couldn’t stop his tears this time… His phone buzzed and Manek informed him that Pooja was safely returned. That was a relief but Pooja was apparently clueless about everything. She was being rushed to the hospital for a check-up…. just in case. His heart fell… he wanted his Ria back safe and sound…the world be damned.
It took them a while to find the place. Manek and a few officers sanctioned discreetly by the crime branch reached in a few moments after them. They were all armed and also in touch with the head office back in Mumbai constantly. They had the Armed forces too on hold nearby if needed, but they wanted to Take Ansari into custody as discreetly as possible to avoid the media from encroaching. They parked a little away from the bungalow and walked slowly towards the main gate. Fortunately, the place was dark so it would help their cause. Gaurav was told, they had the necessary paperwork to arrest Ansari and Sujata. It was supposed to be a victory day for him. He was all set to clear his name totally and get back his life…but at that moment everything else was obsolete. Only Ria mattered… He took out his binoculars and held them up trying to see…but the curtains were all drawn and though the lights were on he couldn’t see anything or anyone inside…it was difficult to get the headcount of men inside and his heart thudded fiercely with the thought of Ria getting hurt. He wanted to see her safe just as much as he needed his next breath. As they neared the gates, they were joined by another person in combat attire. It was Ria’s uncle… He spoke to the Crime Branch guys and one phone call was sufficient for them to permit him to join the operation. There was some unsaid communication between Gaurav and him. Gaurav nodded… The more expertise they received, the better were the chances of getting Ria back safe.
One of the officers got a blueprint of the Bungalow interior and Keith took out a gadget that was used to open the main lock without a sound. The other guys spread across around the bungalow very silently to try every way to check the number of men inside. Their earpieces were all connected with the same frequencies and they could communicate with everyone. Manek was to take over the electrical mains. They had just got hold of the owner of the bungalow, based in the UK via head office, and who had no clue about who had rented the place. But he had given them all the details about the electrical mains, switch boards and other connections. Keith used his gadget effectively and they successfully entered the bungalow without making noise. Keith, Manek, Gaurav, Ria’s uncle and an officer from Crime Branch took positions in the dimly lit patio corners as Manek found the mains. The head of the operations, Inspector Sehgal from Crime Branch who was with them now…strictly warned everyone against opening fire… Gaurav’s heart lost a beat when he heard that… He was told to stay behind but he would have none of it so here he was in his Kevlar suit… and his pistol… Finally, he was getting to hold the beauty he had licenced when he had arrived in Pune from Dubai but had only used it in the shooting range so far. He didn’t know if his hands would be steady because Ria was around…Oh God…please keep her safe…It was suddenly pitch dark and all he heard as a tiny bead of seat found its way down his temple, was few clicks…of Guns…
Ria smiled to herself in the dark… she knew they would come for her… but this was quick. It wasn’t surprising knowing the kind of man Gaurav was. She stood up trying to move towards the back where she knew she could hide but then someone dragged her around…as there was commotion…some kind of a verbal cacophony of Arabic utterances lashed out everywhere… was it Sujata who pulled her…? No, it was too hard and her arm hurt. Ria hit her knee to the centre table in the dark. “Ouch…it hurt…leave me…”
“Shut up you bitch…” Sujata screamed from some corner nearby. “…I should kill you myself for ruining all our plans…”
“THAT’S ENOUGH…” Ansari roared somewhere to the right of where she stood. Suddenly there was total silence “…Zubair, Hold Ms. Narsimhan’s hand tightly and keep her close. …sanie almataeib… trouble… We have company…. They won’t try anything stupid else … hurt her. Come upstairs to office… “
“…EVERYONE STAY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE…” A booming voice startled her.
However, Zubair dragged her. She put all her weight on the man and he was huffing and panting. She was glad about her excess flab for once… she was such an oxymoron right now. She stumbled not being able to see the ground and someone hit her head… sending explosion of light behind her eyelids as she writhed in pain… but she dared not make a whimper. She didn’t want Gaurav to get distracted… Suddenly the lights were on again blinding her with their bright luminosity as Ria looked around her. Zubair was still holding her hand and her head throbbed where she was hit by the asshole… but her eyes were searching for Gaurav. Ansari walked up to her holding a gun to her temple just as Gaurav emerged from behind the pillar pistol in hand and all vested up… He was accompanied by Keith, another guy in vest and Oh…Goodness…Ashok Chitthappa…Had they made peace…? She wondered… Her eyes teared up as she watched Gaurav staring daggers at Ansari. She only hoped it was not the last time she was seeing him…
The room was filled with Abdul’s men along with some other men in black with their guns trained on one another. A couple of Abdul’s men had fallen and in spite of who they were Ria hoped they weren’t dead. Ansari was totally flustered and he swore in what she thought was Arabic. Ansari quickly unlocked his pistol and held it to Ria’s head. He said aloud, “…My loaded pistol… here. All see… I have no problem with Law here… Ashok…handover that bastard to me… I go away… no shooting… Your niece safe…”
“…Shut the hell up…asshole… I am ashamed to call you a comrade anymore…what have you done to yourself…?” Ria was surprised to hear her Chitthappa speak that way.
“…He kill my son, Ashok…” Ansari spoke as if Chitthappa hadn’t spoken at all.
“…No Abdul…he didn’t… you are deluded…totally… your son died because he overdosed…”
“…NO…HE WAS KILLED… BY THIS anthy khinzir…” Abdul swore and she could feel him trembling with rage…
Suddenly he dragged her towards the wall behind him the pistol still pointing towards her temple.
“…Let her go Ansari… you want me… I am here… let…let her go…” It was Gaurav with a voice dripping of desperation and her throat clogged.
“…No son… you don’t have to do it…” Chitthappa spoke sternly. “… Abdul…listen to me… its very sad that Saquib died but he was depressed and an addict… do you know who supplied him drugs regularly…? It was this lady here Sujata… she used him…”
“…NO… THAT Gaurv… he killed…” by now his hold on her hand tightened and she cringed in pain.
“…Be reasonable Abdul… you have been blinded by your love for Saquib… instead of getting him treated you only covered for him… see where its landed you… this woman used us and in spite of our training we let her…”
“…What the hell… why are you putting the blame on me…? Mr. Ansari…your son was a user already… I didn’t make him an addict…he was depressed because of Shilpi…” Sujata blurted out.
“…Shut up lady… you have caused enough damage and ruined enough families… it’s over now…” Chitthappa was in his element as he scolded a shocked looking Sujata. He then turned to Ansari. “…look Abdul… you were a decorated officer…the best sniper we had… but more than that you were a wonderful human… so considerate in spite of the grind that we had to face…. What has happened to you…? I never believed anything till I saw the proof… its over Abdul… killing my niece or Gaurav won’t absolve you of the crimes you have committed…in your grieving…”
“…Ashok…I want revenge… for my Saquib…” Abdul’s voice cracked but his hold hadn’t loosened and Ria’s head was reeling and her hand had gone numb with pain.
“…. your anger and resentment are palpable, Abdul, but…grossly displaced… My son-in-law here is not…NOT responsible… yet you caused him so much pain… do you believe in punishing the innocent…? Do you remember that siege of that Oil company in Kuwait by terrorists fifteen years ago…our last op together where we were sent to defend it…? You let go off a sixteen-year-old amongst them and promised an education for him…you fought for him in spite of being injured yourself…do you remember…? he is a successful engineer today in a good job…I have followed up with him all these years…Abdul…you gave that boy a new life…that is who you are my friend…not this psycho who is gun blazing and killing innocents…”
“…Hey…hey stop that melodrama now… both of you… Ansari…just get him to sign the bloody papers and I will leave…then do what you want with Ria…” Sujata had lost it..
“…You have not understood anything, have you…? Losing a sister who you ruined much before her death… she was a drug addict too… were you aware…? Then what kind of an upbringing did you give her…?” Chitthappa asked her in a lethally soft voice. “…By the way Ms. Sujata for a minute you had fooled me as well… but there is enough evidence against you … your father was a part of the drug trafficking gang, wasn’t he…? We got the records and you are wanted too by the Dubai police… so what will you do with money…?” His smile gave Ria the chills…this was a different version of Chitthappa she was seeing today.
“…Quiet all of you… I just wanted some money…” Sujata was boiling with fury. “…so what if I did…I grew poor… Dirt poor… My father was a bastard who blew up everything on drugs and women… He did one one good in his pathetic life…taught me the tricks of the trade… And then I made good contacts of peddlers and finally through my sister had things going well… we supplied to high end malls and boutiques where we went for shopping… who would suspect the Chopra daughter in law peddling drugs…” She chuckled sending a chill down Ria’s spine and she dare not look at Gaurav… Sujata continued. “…it was smooth…and we had a great life… but his buffoon son got in the way in Dubai and then everything was over…my stupid sister fell for him …. wanted to give up everything… what could i do then…? I had to drug her as well…to make her listen to me… dumbo was pregnant so couldn’t give her more… I gave her a little ecstasy that evening but instead of seducing Gaurav into signing she…called Saquib over… stupid female… she died… then i tried my charm on Saquib…influenced him…do you know Ansari…?” She chuckled again looking at Ansari with blood red eyes. “…Your Saquib, he believed me more than you… But that failed too and he overdosed…used a week’s quota one day… who does that…? Then here i thought Ansari had a hold but that Swara gave up so easily… all because of … this bitch… I am not going to leave her alive…NO ONE TAKES WHAT’S MINE…”
Before anyone could react, Sujata snatched a pistol from one of Abdul’s men and tried to take a shot at Ria… but right then Abdul pushed Ria away and got in the line of fire…what followed was a frenzy of shots and chaos. Ria screamed and swayed the movement causing the bile to rise up her throat and the last thing she remembered before falling …was being held by a familiar pair of strong hands screaming out her name. She knew even without seeing. or even if she hadn’t heard him…Gaurav was here. “Wa…Watch…my… watch… proof…” she uttered… Then everything went dark…
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