Shiv didn’t smoke or do weed, but he could smell and identify their types from anywhere. The misty smoke-filled nightclub appeared notorious, and his heart paced with worry for Padma.
He had to spot her to keep an eye without her realizing it. What was the princess thinking? Coming to this shady outlet without security?
The cacophony of the blaring DJ accompanied by the incessant screams of the gathered crowd swelling every minute was getting on Shiv’s nerves. He was used to most chaotic situations, but he was never personally invested. Instead, his trained eyes darted across the room, taking in the exit points and checking out the silhouettes of the gathered people.
Right then, the hair on his neck stood and his heart raced. Something wasn’t right. Where the hell was the princess?
The music changed from brash to something slower, and many split from the dancing crowd to come for a drink, and…then… he saw her. Padma was drinking something with her friend. How could she throw caution to the wind? His blood boiled thinking of the worst-case scenarios, and right then, he saw her friend go back to the dance floor and disappear in the crowd. So why was Padma sitting alone?
The strobe ball above turned, and a myriad kaleidoscope of colors fell on her oval face. Despite the blast of AC she was sweating, and he was about eight feet away. Yet he could see the bead of sweat flow from her temple to the neck and disappear in the strap of whatever she was wearing. She bent slightly, and her outfit slipped a little lower to reveal her nape line.
Padma was perfect, but her chest was heavier, and the dress she had worn that night hugged her in the right manner. His blood gushed southward and an erection so painful than he had ever known strained against his boxers. He looked away and rubbed his face, berating himself to encourage such vile thoughts.
The feeling of unease returned, and he looked up to see… the princess was gone.
Did she get back to dancing? How could he look for her without revealing himself or making it obvious? But he had to find her… he didn’t like the scenario.
His eyes fell on a massive silhouette of a man limping slightly and making his drunk way beyond the drinks counter. Shiv had found there were rooms for the patrons lined at the back in case anyone wanted to make out with their partners or pass out drunk.
But this man… he knew from somewhere. He couldn’t make out in the dark, but something about that gait felt familiar. He moved in the direction wedging between people in the crowd. He could afford to be recognized. But the man suddenly disappeared as well. Was the floor opening up and swallowing everyone here? What on earth was happening?
Shiv cruised slowly and moved towards the back rooms. A couple of rooms gave out groans which weren’t unfamiliar as he realized those were the sound of passion or whatever they called it. Then, he heard some muffled noise behind one of the closed doors. Now, that wasn’t passion at all…
He tried to move the door but it was locked. His gut instinct that had saved his life umpteen times rang an alarm and he kicked open the door.
Though the lights were dim, he saw the princess sprawled on the bed with her gown drawn down and the last scraps of her virtue up for takes. The man he had seen earlier was above her, smelling of booze. He didn’t think twice but his animal instincts took over and he pulled the man away from the princess. The man fell with a thud and was knocked off immediately. The princess was in a state of shock.
How could the princess be so reckless he wondered when he realized she was crying… silently unable to move or speak. Her eyes were out of focus and she was so disoriented. He bent closer to her and smelt alcohol. Oh goodness… the princess was roofied. She was probably given a date rape drug…
He was right all the while. The killer had made a move. No one would suspect him if the princess was violated and killed in this shady place.
He dressed the princess and lifted her in his arms without wasting another moment. He rushed out of the alternative exit meant for the staff he had marked earlier. It had a couple of employees smoking away to glory, but they didn’t notice him. He ran towards the car he had chosen earlier and picked the lock as he balanced the princess who rested on his body.
He opened the back passenger door and laid her on the seat, but she raised her chest upwards, her face coming close to his, and his breath stopped. Despite everything, he had a tough time controlling his raging libido as he had held her lithe body close to his. And then… she kissed him. It was a touch of lips, his rough with her smooth, malleable ones. She hooked her soft hands around his neck pulling him close, and he lost it.
He heard some footsteps and instantly went on high alert. When she was about to move her tongue to part his lips, he released her, swearing at the turn of events and got into the driving seat. He had to rig the ignition but his training was apt. However, the adrenaline from all that transpired moments ago caused his heart to race rapidly, and there was a slight tremor in his fingers for the first time in his life.
The car zoomed away from the nightclub and he took a few detours before ditching the vehicle and stealing another one. He continued this a couple of times more and when he was sure the vehicle would be untraceable, he sped towards the mountain. He had to use the mountain pathway yet again.
For the second time in two years he dropped the princess back on the same bench and disappeared before anyone could catch him. He dumped the car in a remote area and made his way towards the nearest tea stall even as tangerine skies showered the early morning glow.
He touched his chapped lips where the princess had kissed him barely hours ago and wished with everything he had that he could relive those moments again. But, despite the circumstances, they were the best moments of his life.
As he sipped his cutting chai, slipping into the shadows, there was a small gathering of men and he realised they were waiting for someone. Something told him he had to wait with them. What happened last night wasn’t a coincidence. There was something sinister going on and he had to find out about it. The drugging of the princess and the attempt to violate her… rage filled his body as he thought of how vulnerable the princess was.
An ambassador car halted a little away, and all the gathered men stood up to greet the person who alighted from the car. Shiv peered through the gaps in the tent of the makeshift tea stall and anger raced through his body. The man was none other than the asshole who had tried to force himself on the princess.
Shiv crushed the thermacol cup in his palm, unmindful of the residual tea seeping through his fingers. At that moment, he would give anything to wring that man’s neck. His hand touched his pocket where he had kept the man’s phone as he had lifted it from the scene. It was switched off, and he would soon take it to his tech friend to get it analyzed and delete any data pertaining to the princess that the pervert intended to use.
The men came closer to the stall, and in the new rays of the sun, Shiv could see the bastard as he flopped on the rickety chair. The bump on his forehead was a reminder of Shiv’s handiwork last night, which gave him some solace. He continued to eavesdrop…
“Get me a hot cup of tea…” The man groaned, holding his forehead and continued. “…Saheb is going to be mad. Don’t be surprised if you see my dead body tomorrow…”
“Why Bhau? What is the matter… didn’t things go as planned? We thought the bird was in our grasp,” One of the four men around him asked.
Shiv knew ‘bird’ meant the princess. He hoped this was a start to get to the crux of the plot.
“Everything was under control. Saheb could have achieved what he missed two years ago… Those two hid evidence very well. Still, if the only witness, our bird, is no more or loses credibility, then evidence be damned, Saheb remains untouched, and we can continue our business….” The man with the crooked nose continued holding his head with one hand and sipping tea.
“But Bhau… we had it all arranged, the room, the lights, the drink…” another lanky man spoke
“It was going great Ganpa… I had got pictures too… can you beat that? Value of those pictures in dollars? And the bird was untouched and given the blood in her veins, the auction could have fetched us all we wanted…” He groaned again and continued to talk. “…someone came in right then and took off with the bird.”
“Who was that Bhau?”
“Arre melya…” The man kicked the person who asked the question and spat on the muddy ground. “…if I had known, wouldn’t he be dead by now? The bastard took my phone along with him. If only I could lay my hands on him… I don’t know when we will get another chance… Saheb will have my hide…” the man rubbed his face and Shiv saw the sparkle of a signet ring on his stubby finger.
He had seen this man… yes. On the rainy night two years ago in that fort. This man was right behind the man in the raincoat. He couldn’t see the face then but he had seen the ring. He could recognize the ring anywhere in the world. It was his family heirloom… it was his father’s ring.
The bastard had killed his father and dared to keep the ring. Shiv’s blood boiled, and he wished nothing more than to take them all down, and he knew he could. But he also knew now wasn’t the time. Instead, he needed to get deeper to know what was in store and how his father was involved in the mess that caused his death and the Queen. First, he had to find out who the ‘Saheb’ was.
“Arre, where is that Baltya…?” The man looked around as if he had a gathering before him. “…we have to find out who knew about our plans. I have to answer Saheb. That man came out of nowhere. I asked security and checked the cameras, but I couldn’t spot him at all… Ask Baltya to ask around. I heard a car was stolen from the nightclub. Something tells me that man escaped in that car. Tell Baltya to check that as well… Kon aahe ha manus…?”
“Bhau did you get hurt as well…?” his right-hand man asked.
“Arre Ganpa, he kachich nahi…(this is nothing) think about what Saheb will do of we don’t give him the results….” The man sighed and looked at his henchman again. “….Ganpa ek kaam kar. Check out our latest consignment. And also check the waterfall area… sagla thik aahe na? (all’s fine ?)”
The men nodded, and soon they all left.
Shiv wondered what consignment they were talking about. Was it drugs? But he hadn’t heard any sordid tales from these regions regarding drug use. Nor did he hear of weapons. So there was only one way to start his investigation. He had to access his father’s locker, so he had to get back to gurukul ASAP.