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----------------------------------... I Love you Rachu ...

Dear Frnds pls spread this msg until its reach to my rachu
I thinks see knows my name
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This book is dedicated to Zoe.


Whos Zoe? you might wonder,
but Zoe knows who she is so Ill say it again:
This book is dedicated to Zoe.

BHENDI BAZAAR is one of the several infamous red-light areas in Mumbai. It is right
behind Crawford Market, where the top brass of the Mumbai Police are headquartered.
Neither the name nor the location is incidental though. Story is, that Crawford Market
was one of the prized wholesale markets built by the British. The British called the area
south of Crawford Market Behind the Bazaar; the Indians picked up the British lilt as
BHENDI BAZAAR.

MUMBAI it was once Bombay. Till 1995.


Hawala, hooch, hafta and hookers are some of the infringements that infest Mumbai. To
assume that the hoi polloi or the high-heeled dont know about it would be naive; the
police, sometimes, even know the who and where, but they have bigger criminals to
catch. Most Mumbai citizens dont think its their business to interfere, to stop or to
report. They have their own pains and miseries; they have no desire to be involved. Who
has the time anyway? Mumbai gives you a lot, but sucks the life out of you in bargain.
The traffic, the population, the drudgery
Despite the battles they know they would have to fight daily to survive,
approximately 450 new people come to this distending megalopolis daily to make it
their home thats a city like Brussels added every year. They come because they know
this is the only city in India that will provide them with, if nothing else, two meals a day.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20

Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
AuthorS Note

ONE
1982
New Delhi, India
The Non-Aligned Movement, of which India was a founding member, was an attempt to
impede the Cold War, but all it could accomplish was to hold back the members from
overtly siding with either of the duelling superpowers the Soviet Union and the
United States.
Soviet Unions love for India and vice-versa, however, wasnt exactly a clandestine
affair. It wasnt pure circumstance that India was the first international customer for MiG
29s; it was to counterbalance neighbouring Pakistans purchase of F-16s from the US.
The two Non- Aligned States!
With the US boycotting the Moscow Olympics in 1980, even the optimists hadnt
expected the Soviets to participate in the 1984 Games at Los Angeles. To exhibit their
solidarity with sport, the USSR allowed, under controlled conditions, those involved
with sports to travel to New Delhi as spectators for the 1982 Asian Games. The Kremlin
had decreed that the various sporting bodies would be responsible for taking a limited
number of athletes abroad and carting them back the day after the games concluded. No
tourism. So, while visas for Soviet nationals to the Capitalist Bloc were excruciatingly
difficult if not impossible to obtain a visa to a Non-Aligned, but nevertheless
friendly, State became comparatively straightforward. Particularly under this pretext. In
any event, why would any compos mentis individual leave a socialist paradise to live in
the Third World?
The closing ceremony of the Games over, everyone, athletes and the spectators,
retreated to their hotels. It was the Soviet camps last night in New Delhi and it was time
for all 157 of them to return to the Red the following morning by the scheduled Aeroflot
flight from Palam Airport. It was, for most, time to pack up and return to the rusting life
behind the Iron Curtain.
Not for Magdalena, Dunya and Varinka. They had plans. They had made plans long
before leaving Moscow. More than a year before the Games, to be precise; when the trio
had been told about the opportunity. The only uncertainty, and the girls worst fear, was
if their government decided to pull out at the last minute, crumbling under some
unforeseen pressure, or if the political environment worsened due to their nations
ongoing military presence in Afghanistan. But it didnt, and the three friends progressed
with their plans. They didnt picture themselves living their entire lives in a communist
country dreaming of independence, capitalism, the lifestyle. Intelligent enough to
understand there wasnt an escape in ordinary circumstances which western

European State would grant a visa to teenage girls? they hatched plans to flee, for
good, on their return from New Delhi. Magdalena, seventeen, and the oldest of the three,
was the originator of the idea. It didnt take her much effort to convince the other two.
Can we? How? Are you sure? Will it be risky? What if we are caught? Will we be
jailed? Where will we go? What shall we do?
The team, together, gathered answers to many other such questions. Sadly, a few
questions were still unanswered when they boarded the flight to Delhi.
The United States was ruled out as the final immigration destination. It would be too
risky, explained Magdalena: their security was airtight, and young girls of Russian origin
would ring alarm bells. She vaguely remembered her mum telling her stories about one
of her aunts who had escaped to England after the War and the idea had stuck in her
young mind. England, well go to England, she had told the other two excitedly. The
entranced sixteen- year-olds were raring to believe anything that would take them away
from the drudgery of the mundane, bourgeois life confined by the shackles of
communism, to an alluring Western life like an endless rainbow. Some lunatics
fantasised about a dtente between East and West, but it wasnt going to happen any time
soon; if one wanted a free life, one had to flee. Of course, there were risks, but they
would be well worth it. Magdalena had kept the detailed plan under wraps from the
other two till she was confident they wouldnt renege on taking off and, then demanded
rigorous secrecy regarding the plan.
The English language lessons started immediately. The girls saved every Rouble
from their puny pocket money, moonlighted doing chores for neighbours and
neighbourhood stores, after school and between their gymnastic practices, to raise
enough cash to procure counterfeit Irish passports for Margaret Flynn, Deborah
ODonnell and Viviane Casey which would allow entry, without visas, into the UK.
Why not British passports?
Because the British authorities have a higher probability of recognising a local
counterfeit passport vis--vis a foreign one.
The plan was simple. The girls would disappear at New Delhi airport and take a
domestic flight to Bombay, which left two hours after their arrival at the airport, but still
an hour before the departure of the Aeroflot flight. Magdalena even paid her contact, Mr
Borgov, for refuge on arrival in Bombay for almost twenty-four hours before they
would be put on a flight to London. One Mr Patel would check the landing time of their
booked flight from Delhi and look for them at Gateway of India between six and eight
hours from the flight landing at Bombay on December 5th.
If you dont make it between these hours, youll be on your own. He cannot wait
forever. Money forfeited.
Yes, Mr Patel has your photographs, and will find you. Yes, hes done this
before.
Mr Patel will fix you a decent accommodation in a hotel in Colaba. Nothing
fancy, but liveable; after all, you only need to spend the night. Plus, he will also
provide dinner and breakfast. Of course, you would be free to venture out for dinner,

but it isnt advisable.


Two weeks in the harsh Delhi sun will make your skin colour like any of the
Bombay girls. Dont worry, youll fit in. In any case, youre on a domestic flight and
there shouldnt be unnecessary questions.
It was time, now, to carry out the plan. As everyone retired to their rooms, Dunya and
Varinka, as agreed, sneaked into their leaders room for the final orders.
Shhhh Magdalena put her index finger to her lips to quieten the giggling girls.
Be quiet. We dont want everyone to know were up to something.
Both nodded and sat on the bed. Magdalena, who was also the tallest, towered over
the other two with final orders.
Be confident tomorrow. Remember, we have nothing to do with the Soviet
delegation flying back, so we need to detach ourselves from the group as soon as we get
to the airport.
We are Anglo-Indian girls who came to see the Games, stayed with our friends and are
now returning home to Bombay.
Where would the three of us hide? It was Dunya.
We wont hide together, nor would we go to the check-in desks together. Three of us
together might attract attention from authorities; alone, no one should care.
Im scared.
Once we land in Bombay, well meet in the baggage area. We have three hours
between arriving at the airport and boarding the Moscow flight. By the time the rest of
the team notices, we would already be on the flight to Bombay. If for some reason you
are unable to pass through check-in, please do not, in any event, sink the ship. If you get
caught, let others go. It is the same for me as for you. But, I am certain well have no
problems. Now, heres some colourmake yourself look a shade darker.
The hotel coach dropped the Soviet teams, garbed in official team uniform, at the
terminal. The hosts had arranged for a farewell committee to ensure a smooth transit for
them. Dunya arrived at the airport in the first coach. She rushed ahead of everyone with
her little tote and disappeared into the Ladies. Locking herself in one of the cubicles, she
quickly changed from her team attire into a white T-shirt and jeans, and sat comfortably.
From under the door, she could see other women coming in and out. She recognised a
few tracksuit bottoms. It was quiet and, after a while, she lost track of time sitting alone
in silence. Suddenly, there was some activity and some other group of passengers
wandered in. Strangers. She looked at her watch. Thirty minutes had elapsed. It was safe
to venture out.
Varinka walked out alone, but a chatty teammate caught up with her.
Hi.
Varinka smiled in response and carried on. She was on a mission, and in no mind to
get pulled into an irrelevant, unexciting conversation.
'Are you okay?'
'Of course.'

The two walked into the nearest toilet. As soon as the other girl latched her cubicle,
Varinka bolted. She came out of the Ladies, mingled with the crowd and walked briskly.
Thirty steps later, the sign for the next Ladies was in sight and she loosened up. She
got into the toilet, changed out of her tracksuit and checked her Irish passport, yet again.
Viviane Casey. She did her dress rehearsal for Heathrow: Born in Cork. 1966.
Some considered Varinka skinny, others thought of her as a petite model figure. Hair
very dark chestnut blond, almost auburn, tall for her age five feet four long legs,
hazel eyes, and a mouth that displayed a permanent smile even though she was a worrier
by nature. Would her father miss her? He had become an alcoholic since her mother had
passed away five years ago. He didn't care if she came home late from school or
practised gymnastics. Why should he care if she didn't return from India?
Magdalena avoided all company and transformed herself from a visiting Soviet
athlete into a svelte beauty, and waited for the USSR delegates to transit. Thirty minutes
later, she was at the check-in desk in khaki-coloured trousers and a chocolate Poncho
top with low dcolletage. The Indian Airlines check-in officer looked at her, at her
ticket, then at her low neckline, and waved her through security. She, too, joined the
security queue.
Standing in another queue, Varinka saw her two friends walking past the check-in
counters. Hysteria showed on her face as she gingerly walked to the desk after having
done three dry runs in the toilet.
'Where are you flying to, Miss Casey?' the officer asked without looking at her ticket.
BBombay.'
The officer flipped through the ticket booklet. 'Alone?
She looked at him, uttered nothing.
Any identification?
Was he just being frivolous or did he figure out she was a Soviet who had split from
the group? She wanted to turn around and run, but that was out of question. She couldn't,
just this minute, pull out her Russian passport and join the rest of the team on the flight to
Moscow. That would convey she wasnt meant to travel locally, and if they examined
things meticulously, she was done for.
'Do you have any identification, Miss Casey?'
She nodded without intending to. Her brain was as though detached from her body. 'I
see. Do you have any friends, family here?'
'My friend is there.' She pointed towards the door through which the other two had
gone in.
He turned around, but seeing no one, he reckoned the girl meant to point to a friend
who had already checked in for the flight. In his opinion, a sixteen-year-old travelling
with her friend wasnt unnatural. He asked her to move ahead. 'Have a good flight.'
As soon as she was out of sight of the check-in counter, Varinka ran to the security
queue and straight into Magdalenas arms before breaking down.
'It's okay, Varinka. We're safe now. Let's be calm and go through the security. Lets
get out of here as soon as we can.'

Doors closed. The flight was on time. The three friends, as decided, did not park
themselves together in the plane either, but were in sight of each other. Magdalena, a
year older than Varinka, was five feet six, bustier, her hair a tone darker than Varinkas;
so dark she could be classified as a brunette when she had a wet head. Eyes, again a
shade darker than Varinkas. If one saw the two together, it was easy to mistake the two
for sisters. Not far from reality, as they were cousins, twice removed, and Magdalena
always mothered her younger cousin.
The middle-aged guy sitting next to Dunya tried engaging her in a chat in Hindi, but
she yawned him away and went into a slumber. Dunya was pleasant, not beautiful like
the other two. She was heavier than Varinka and despite the same height, looked plump.
Santa Cruz Airport, Mumbai, India
10 a.m.
The flight was a few minutes ahead of schedule. The girls appeared in fine fettle. The
tanned skin tone, the only slightly light hair did not evoke any suspicion in Bombay. With
a few other flights arriving concurrently, the girls looked like many other tanned tourists
breaking journey in Bombay after a vacation in Goa. Once in the lounge, they hugged
each other, walked out and hailed the first cab.
They had won the first round. Like the autumn leaves, they were finally unbound,
detached from the tree trussing them, stymieing their flight. Unfortunately, sometimes,
shackles are a sanctuary; severe elements of weather can be unforgiving.
----------------------------------... I Love you Rachu ...
Dear Frnds pls spread this msg until its reach to my rachu
I thinks see knows my name
Book Downloaded from: EBOOK4IN.BLOGSPOT.COM

TWO
2007
Mumbai, India
Like an unsure adolescent who cannot decide if she's a girl or a woman, the third hour
after midnight most people would concur cannot decide if it's night or day. It is
one of those agonising hours of the twenty-four hour period that should never have been
put on the clock by its inventor. And, as though it wasn't already taxing enough, some
clown had got himself murdered at that zany hour. Okay, he was murdered a little earlier
in the night; the body, however, was discovered at three.
When she had gone to bed the night before, Deputy Commissioner of Police Rita
Ferreira had no premonition she would beat her alarm clock to the wake-up race. Her
official, ex-directory, phone rang piercing the night or day like a bagpipe blowing
straight into her ear to wake her. To make matters worse, her ex-boyfriend Karans
fiance, Sheila, had come in to collect his stuff from Ritas residence and left only at
midnight. Karan had moved to New York after breaking up four years ago; he was only
getting married now. After Sheila had left, Rita drank Jim Beam till midnight reminiscing
old times till she had snoozed off.
The ominous ring was strident at three and roused Rita out of bed; tired and groggy, she
picked up the receiver and arduously muttered, 'DCP Ferreira.'
Homicide. Male. Dead for at least a few hours. Further details weren't required; the
who and how would hardly have stopped Rita saying goodbye to the warm bed. She
envied her alarm clock that had the luxury of another few hours sleep.
Rita wasn't drunk, but she did not trust her driving skills, especially after the night
before; it would also mean breaking the law. Her official driver being unavailable at this
hour, she asked for a patrol car to pick her up in twenty minutes.
Rita was not beautiful, not in her eyes, nor in the eyes of any beholder. Her tawnycoloured body, however, was toned in fantastic shape. Not an ounce of fat. Narrow
waist. Not well-endowed, but curvaceous nevertheless; as curvaceous as one could be
on a size eight frame. And a zillion-dollar arse. The body was remarkable enough for a
third or fourth glance. If one were to describe Rita in a word, the word would be
sensual. As she showered, she looked at herself: still only thirty-something, attractive.
Tall by Indian standards: five feet six. She flexed her little biceps that Karan had adored.
Suddenly, like someone had turned the page, her thoughts moved to the corpse. Dead for
a few hours: the body wasn't going anywhere, and the soul if everyone had a soul and
the fable had any truth in it had already departed for the next world, so what was the
rush?

Rita put on her trusted Smith & Wesson .38 in the holster. It had finally stopped
raining after twelve hours, but the asphalt was still sodden when she came out of her
apartment block in Bandra, a strong black coffee a wake-up demitasse, as she called
it and a couple of aspirins later. The patrol car a Maruti Suzuki Gypsy was
waiting with the reticent PC driver who doffed his cap and seeing her into the nearside
seat, put the car in gear.
Another phlegmy morning in the life of a homicide detective, Rita smiled, knowing
her opposite number in the uniformed wing got the same pay and, possibly allowances,
but was hardly ever woken up at this hour. Who would wake up a DCP at this unearthly
hour if a bicycle was stolen in Mumbai? Then again, what would be the excitement or
satisfaction in catching a bicycle thief and, thereby, applying only a fraction of the brain?
To be fair to providence, she'd recently been asked to head a private detective agency,
offering gold, in New Delhi, but it wasn't something her conscience which hardly
ever stopped her from other minor vices would have ever permitted. A private-eye
gathering evidence on adulterous spouses to assist divorce payouts? A bounty hunter?
Not in this life. Not for any amount of money. No way. Not her. Not Rita Ferreira, she
told herself. She'd be disgruntled in a day. There was little point in playing a game if the
thought of winning it wasn't exhilarating. As for the money, her parents had made plenty
and bequeathed it to their only child. She had leased one of the large inherited properties
to a hotel chain in Goa, sold off a couple and kept the beach-front family home locked in
anticipation of vacation.
Her wandering thoughts returned to Karan. They had been together for two years,
cohabiting for almost a year before he got an offer from one of the Big Four in NY. He
had insisted Rita quit her job or take a sabbatical and join him, but she was equally
insistent on staying back.
You can't leave India, that's brain drain, she had argued.
It's better than brain in the drain, Rita.
Their two-year relationship culminated in the next three months; the time it took for
his visa to be stamped. Nothing acrimonious, it ended without any emotional outbursts.
Saturday. There were no signs of the day coming to life and the sun, it seemed, wouldnt
even make an attempt to be visible for the next four to five hours, perhaps not till noon.
This was Mumbai monsoon, not some random showers. The rain had only taken a break;
it didn't seem to suggest it was finishing off any time soon.
It was surprising to see, at this hour four in the morning a few hardcore club
patrons returning from their wanton endeavours in Juhu or Bandra, but the red flashing
lights on the hoods of police vehicles, visible in the distance through the windscreen of
the patrol jeep, were there to pull down curtains on the just-finished noir; their sirens
had been silenced to let the neighbours enjoy a few more hours of sleep, which no one
on duty would have minded either. Rita got down from the car the moment it stopped to a
welcome of, at least, half-a-dozen salutes by uniformed officers who were always the
first to arrive at the scene of crime. Rita responded with a series of nods, her ponytail
moving like it was really attached at the back of a working horse. She may not have been

beautiful but was incredibly feminine, nevertheless. A woman in what had traditionally,
worldwide, been a man's role in this male chauvinist society where men still expected
women to give up their day jobs and accompany them to far-off places. Come to New
York? She was well aware of the stares she received, comments caught in the men's
throats, but which never found a voice. Men would always be men, education could
sophisticate them, but the natural instincts always crawled back. Her juniors, however,
acknowledged that Rita was a sharp, equable officer with a voice that never betrayed
her emotions; her coffee-brown eyes were known to be as quick to capture as a highspeed camera shutter. With a wide-angled lens.
Wearing a camel-coloured trench coat she had wrapped around to fight the light
rheumy chill, she stood there for a few minutes taking in the details.
Versova. Mangal Nagar. There had been wide spaces left between the concrete
apartment blocks by the builder when the complex had been built, and only a handful of
people owned cars, bought with their savings. But since the banks had mindlessly started
disbursing loans for vehicles in the mid-Nineties, like a drug peddler distributing free
samples, the haphazardly parked overabundance of cars everywhere left only a narrow
part in between to walk through. The apartments, only a few shipshape, others derelict
depending on the current owners prosperity en bloc stood in the dark like blind
spectators watching a mime artist. Rita's mind returned to the murder she had been
pulled out of bed to investigate this morning. Shaking her head pejoratively, she walked
up to the second block of apartments and took the stairs up to the third floor. 30X.
'Anyone from the crime branch?' Rita asked an inspector in uniform who met her at
the door.
The house, with police and medics, conveyed that death had been in the vicinity
earlier. The immutable police procedures had started. Women and men in paper-suits
were collecting everything that they could, from the body and the house, to take it to the
lab. There was some lingering smell of cordite in the house, but not enough to sweep
over the foul odour of death. Nothing could ever annihilate the strange smell of death; it
wasn't rancid, and it wasn't something you smelt, it was the quietness in the air that you
felt.
There was another faint scent in the air, Rita discerned. Unmistakably floral,
unmistakably feminine.
'Inspector Vikram arrived twenty minutes ago.'
'Good.' She took the white gloves offered by the uniformed officer.
Vikram must have heard his boss. He turned around to acknowledge her presence.
'Good morning ma'am.'
Senior Inspector Vikram Patil, in his mid-thirties, was Rita's next in command.
Coming from the state cadre of police, he had put in a greater number of years in the
force than her. If all went well and he looked promising he would soon be
Assistant Superintendent. He was a good seven inches taller than Rita, and having lost a
whopping thirty kilos from his globe-shaped torso, he was fit as the proverbial fiddle. A
medium-oak coloured man, who definitely had his eyes set to take over when Rita got

transferred, he believed his active grey cells were capable enough to lead crime
investigations. Earlier, his weight had been a problem, but he was now agile too.
'Good morning. Were you here before anything was touched or removed? Yes,
ma'am
Fill me on it.' Rita did a quick ocular inspection of the place. A compact 600 square
feet, two-bedroom apartment. Neat and clean. Basic furniture. Unassuming lifestyle.
'Au naturel, male stiff. Approximate age forty-five to fifty. Dead for at least six
hours. Life clipped by a shot between the eyes. Close range. The skin is singed but there
are several knife wounds in the groin, like a butchers been in. No signs of knife or gun.
No burglary, no plunder, no combing. The killer, decidedly, had no larcenous intentions.'
'Knife wounds?' Rita had a closer look. The mans genitalia had been razed; his
flaccid member was dangling, attached to the body with a fine thread of skin. 'Anything
else?
There is that crystal tumbler by his bedside. Only onehe was possibly drinking
alone
Or the perpetrator was smart enough to remove the other one.' She bent down to
smell the empty tumbler. Alcohol. Scotch?
Vikram smiled in acquiescence.
Any idea about the time of death?'
'Given the light curing of the body, between four to six hours.
Rita nodded. Not even the greatest pathologist in the world could nail the precise
time of death: not in situ, not on the dissection table. The Crime Scene photographer had
done his shooting and was packing up. The forensic team was scouting every square inch
of the room, and other parts of the house for any prints, hairs, fluids, anything.
Adit Lele lay peacefully now; his dark slate grey eyes, from which all life had
escaped a while ago, were open. To say he was dead was like saying the sky was blue.
The blank look suggested that his veins had been dry for a few hours at least. A faint
smile remaining on his lifeless mouth indicated he had been happy when death came. Or
happy seconds before it came calling, which didn't require waking up the grey cells to
detect. A guy in his mid-forties maybe even older as Vikram had mentioned naked
in bed with, presumably, a female had happiness written all over his face. Was he
expecting a shag and death came calling instead? Why else would he be naked? Then,
maybe, some parley between man and woman that did not conclude well. Tryst gone
wrong? Such things happened. More than one was disposed to, or would have liked to
believe. Unlikely, unusual demand declined. Accusation. Fracas. Threats. And it ended
in one dead. Someone carried a gun. You were dead if you argued with a gun; you died if
you didn't argue with a gun. Anything was possible.
Possibilities might be a start, a rung on the investigation ladder, but not a landing simply
because not many things are impossible. The girl or the man too early and awfully
sparse information to make that call with no better morality than a dog or this horny
middle-aged man himself, had shot Lele point blank. The bullet was, apparently, fired at
such close range it needn't have required a qualified pathologist to confirm the

trajectory. Entry from the forehead, but they hadn't yet turned him around to see if the
bullet had exited or it was still lodged somewhere in the brain. Leles head lay in a pool
of congealed blood, the corpuscles having been dead for quite a while; the pillow newly
dyed with red, dark metallic red. The bed resembled a miniature makeshift abattoir. Rita
could imagine the back of the man's head would have been blown off with the impact of
the slug. Surprisingly, though, the face hadn't taken much of a wallop.
I'd rather die in bed from a stroke, prayed Rita. Then again, if people could decide
when and how they died, everyone would want to live forever. That, therefore, wasn't a
perquisite of humans. Rita could see rigor mortis had started. Four to five hours
minimum, she estimated, which indicated that death might have happened between 10
p.m. and midnight.
'Your view, ma'am?' Vikram's words brought Rita's brooding mind back into the
room.
'Lets see what prints the forensics have dusted.' All views, she knew, based merely
on the tableau they witnessed would be premature. 'Can you smell something floral,
Vikram?'
'It's some female perfume.'
Yes.'
'With him naked in bed, the killer might well be a woman. However, if that was the
case, why didn't this large man defend himself? He doesn't appear to be incapacitated in
any way. He seemed to have taken the stabs and gunshot willingly.'
'Exactly what I was thinking, Vikram. There are no signs of a struggle. The
pathologist should tell us if the stab wounds were ante or post-mortem.'
The gobbledygook of the morbid pathology wasn't going to give any clue as to who
the murderer was, but it would certainly explicate how the victim died. How important
was that in reaching to the hands that killed?
'You mean did he suffer before his death?'
'Yes. The gun, unquestionably, had a silencer. There is another apartment on this
floor.
The shot should have been heard by neighbours even if they were asleep. Please
ensure the team asks everyone on this floor, in this block, and the entire complex when
they wake up.' Rita glanced at her watch: 5 a.m. 'Someone must have seen or heard
something.'
'Anything else?'
'Ask the uniformed division to take charge of the street. If this happened between ten
and midnight, a lot of shops, street vendors, restaurants should have been thronged with
last- minute shoppers on the main street, which the killer would have passed on the way
in or out. Someone might have noticed something unusual. Someone must know Lele,
might have seen him entering the premises. There was at least one watchman at the
building gate when I came in. He might have seen someone leave. Also, the council
should collect no refuse bins till the team checks all contents. Maybe the killer disposed
of the weapon or something else before leaving the street. Any sign of forced entry?'

'No, ma'am.'
'How many doors?
'One front door, which was left ajar.'
'Any open windows?' It was a vain question. Who in Mumbai had windows without
metal grills? It was an invitation to burglars.
'None.'
'Who discovered the corpse?'
'A group of teenagers returning from a party saw the front door open; one of them
lives on this floor. They rang the bell and when no one responded, one of them came in
and found Mr Lele. He ran out to the rest of his group and they made the call at around
2:45. The four of them two girls and two boys stood at the entrance of the block
till the uniformed police arrived. The group was forthcoming with a statement and
provided their addresses in case we need to speak to them again. All of them live in this
complex.'
Did either girl come inside the apartment? Rita was thinking of the floral scent.
No. Only one guy entered the apartment.'
No break-in then? So Adit Lele knew his killer and let himor her in.'
It's the only explanation, as of now.'
Lele, did he live alone?'
Yes. Divorced five years back, ran a successful accounting firm somewhere near
Dadar station.' Vikram was already into the case.
'I want his movements from the time he was last seen alive by someone.'
As soon the evidence recovery team was through, the body was tagged, shifted to a
stretcher, velcroed and wheeled out to the ambulance that had been futilely waiting for a
few hours now. Deliveries to the Mumbai morgue were no less frequent than supplies to
any large grocery store; this would just be another parcel. A police constable bless
him got Rita a strong coffee from the roadside in a kullad a terracotta tumbler
as she, unblinkingly, looked at the body being moved into the vehicle. She was already
gestated with the case before the stiff was driven away.
Who killed Adit Lele?
Was the gun there for self-defence and some dustup led to manslaughter? Or was it
carried in with the premeditated purpose of murder? Whose gun was it? Merely because
Lele was dead did not necessarily mean the gun belonged to the murderer. So many
people in Mumbai owned unlicensed firearms. It could well be the victim's gun turned
on him. If that was the case, the murderer might have disposed of the weapon on his or
her way out.
Moreover, what about the knife wounds in the groin? Was someone avenging some
past grudge? Lele might have been lewd towards another guy's girl who repaid with due
interest, or maybe some girl delivered just desserts? Or was it symbolic for something
Rita was missing? It might not be hunky-dory to surmise it was a female killer based on
the floral female perfume and Lele being found bare-ass in bed, as it patently wasn't in
the female psyche to butcher a man or his genitalia. Could that be, then, a shenanigan? If

the scent was sprayed to mislead, it must evidently be a planned murder by a male; if the
perpetrator intended to misguide, wouldn't he attempt to lead the cops astray with the
widest margin? Or could it be it was a flash of a new conjecture to Rita there was
a team where one distracted, the other killed? Or, maybe, a female, followed by a male,
had visited Lele?
Possibly the male found him naked in bed after the female had left and shot him in
that state? Perhaps the male, with an intention to seek revenge, found the stiff, but wanted
to, nevertheless, mutilate? Conjectures, Rita reasoned, they were all conjectures at this
moment and they needed to be kiboshed. The pathologist and forensics would give their
reports, which should eliminate some speculations and explain the state of affairs.
Patience, Rita, patience, youre counting too early; let the eggs hatch.
6:30 a.m. Versova was lazily waking up to face the tragedy in their suburb. This place,
despite a history of being a smugglers haven till the late-Seventies, was now a posh
residential address for corporate executives, businessmen, telly stars. Mangal Nagar, of
course, was a sore thumb amidst the rich and the glitterati. It wasn't exactly Dharavi, but
not something one would like to associate with either. Respectable middle class people
who couldnt afford anything better lived here, and murder wasn't an everyday thing for
them.
Therefore, deplorably, it had the strange power of captivation; people were drawn in
like flies to a lidless pot of honey. Some ghoulish bystanders, interested in the event
solely because it wasn't them on the stage, petered out only when the police camped on
the street and visibility got impeded. Either that or morbid curiosity ceased to interest
the covey for long.
It hadn't started raining yet. It was still. Still like the air, in some yogic stance, had
held its breath. The temperature was touching 30?C, and the humidity doing its fair bit.
Rita had given her trench coat to a constable to drop it in her vehicle. She could feel
sweat exuding through body pores, droplets running between her shoulder blades down
her spine, and travelling further down.
Mumbai had started stirring as the Gypsy drove Rita to Crawford Market Mumbai
Police HQ. Interesting buildings passed her by; some were new even for Rita. She had
read about Mumbai once being an archipelago of seven islands. Owned by the very first
colonisers, the Portuguese, for over 150 years till mid-Seventeenth century when they
gave it as dowry to the English, at the wedding of King Charles II to some princess of
Portugal whose name slipped her mind. It peeved her because she had been a history
student. No wonder the city had an amalgam of Portuguese and Victorian architecture.
Intensely engrossed in the imposing edifices, her otherwise keen nose had missed the
highly appetising aroma of masala chai emanating from a few Iranian cafs along the
way; originally opened by Persian immigrants to India in the 19th century, their tea, she
had heard, was highly addictive.
Oh, a visit to Mumbai isn't complete without an Irani masala-chai. You don't go
to London and not have fish and chips. Rita could almost hear Karan whisper in her
ears.

Something else, Rita reckoned, without being able to put a finger on, was controlling
her brain. The murder, of course. Too neatly done to be unplanned, to be manslaughter,
she knew. She just knew it. As she entered the office building, a familiar saraband of the
usual office telephones, photocopiers, facsimiles, clacking keyboards and office chatter
greeted her. She took the elevator to her office, picked up a disgusting coffee from the
nearest vending machine and walked into her cabin. A small sepulchre of an office
housed a characterless workstation stacked with typical office paraphernalia. Bumf
thicker than War and Peace more than she could read in a week had gathered at her
desk overnight. Papers of this case, other investigations around the city and, business-asusual vacation requests, stationery order forms, fuel bills, food bills, which she, without
any feeling of remiss, signed without bothering to suss. Her officers worked arduously
and sincerely, and she believed everyone appreciated their responsibility towards the
state. Why, then, did they increase officialdom for her? To push her blood pressure
above the Everest? Only bureaucracy knew how to complicate simplicity. Picking up the
phone at her desk, she called for Jatin.
Inspector Jatin Singh had moved into her core team only a few weeks back. He was
proving to be a valuable asset in the squad with his high levels of energy combined with
a sharp brain. He was also her other Man Friday. An inch short of six feet, he was
handsome and always impeccably attired. He had cherished the dream of being an actor
in Bollywood, but his strict Brigadier father would take no such nonsense. The Brigadier
wanted his son to be in uniform and Jatin chose the police over the armed forces.
'Good morning, ma'am.' He walked in with coffee within minutes. Dressed in a smart
natural linen shirt and blue jeans, the 27-year-old had a simpatico persona.
'Good morning, Jatin. It hasn't been so good unfortunately. There's been a murder at
Versova late last night.'
'I heard about it.'
'Good. Then I don't have to tell you that you're on the case from now. Please get an
Operation Room ready...I have a feeling we are looking for a smart alec who leaves
phony spoors to lead us astray. Forensics should tell us how well hes covered his
tracks.' Rita narrated what she had seen, and smelt, along with her surmise.
It might sound like echoing your thoughts, but I, too, think that it's got to be a male.
Females don't stab or mutilate. The gunshot should have been enough even for a
vindictive woman.'
Rita smiled. Another one supported her supposition. Could be both, together or in
tandem.
Of course. Ill get the room allotted quickly.
'Vikram should take a while in getting back to HQ. I've asked him to check on Mr
Adit Lele's he's the one slain movements from last evening onwards.
Vikram was at Dadar at 9 a.m. He picked up tea from a nearby stall and headed towards
Lele's eponymous firm Adit Lele & Associates. The neat office on the second floor of
an old, dilapidated Victorian building had opened, for the day, only a few minutes

earlier.
Vikram showed his ID card to the receptionist and asked to speak to whoever was
responsible in the absence of Mr Lele.
'No one's in yet, except Mr Lele's he's the proprietor personal assistant. Is
everything okay?' the receptionist, a young girl of twenty-something, fearfully asked. No
one in Mumbai liked to see the police. Hell, no one anywhere in the world liked to see
the police in their offices.
'I'm afraid it's not good news. Adit Lele died at his apartment in Versova last night.'
How?
He was shot.
'Who shot him?'
'Well, we are investigating and I need your help. Could I see his personal assistant,
please?'
'Yes. Follow me.' She came out from behind the desk and headed towards a closed
door. Vikram followed. Opening the door, she called: 'Annie.'
Annie, wearing a grey skirt suit, rummaging through cabinet drawers turned around.
'Yes, Rose?'
'Mr Lele is shot, the police are here to see you.'
'Me?'
'Let me explain, Miss...'
'You can call me Annie.'
'We found Mr Lele dead at his residence, in Versova, in the early hours this morning.
Apparently, he was killed some time late last night. I am here to get, from you, any
information you might have regarding his plans for yesterday evening. It might help us to
reconstruct what happened.'
'I don't know. Who killed him?' Annie was hyperventilating.
'Relax,' said Vikram, and then turned to the receptionist. 'Could you get a glass of
water for your colleague, please?
Rose, eager to leave the room, ran out.
'Sit down please,' Annie told Vikram as she slumped into her chair. 'I honestly don't
know what his plans were for the evening, inspector.'
'What were his usual evenings like? He must have, sometime, mentioned what he did
on previous evenings? Who he met? Where he went? We know he was divorced a while
back...was he seeing anyone?'
'Mr Lele wasn't seeing anyone particular, as far as I know. He didn't want to be
involved in a relationship. It hindered his interests.'
'What kind of interests?'
Annie was about to utter something when Rose walked in with water. She left the
two glasses on the desk between Annie and Vikram and, quickly, left the room closing
the door behind her. Vikram knew she would park herself outside the door and
eavesdrop, but it didn't matter.
'You were talking about Mr Lele's interests...'

'Nothing. I am not sure that would help.'


'May I request you to tell me everything you know about Mr Lele, please? Let me
decide if the information helps or not please.
'Adit wasn't a one-woman man.'
Vikram noted Mr Lele had become Adit. 'You mean he was a Casanova?' he
questioned.
'More like Lothario. He was a philanderer. Ohits not as bad as I make it sound.
Look, Adit liked women, the woman didnt matter young, old, beautiful, ugly as
long as the skirt was ready to jump into bed with him. After a few steamy sessions, he
typically lost interest in the girl and moved on.'
Maybe some girl didn't appreciate his moving on, Vikram reflected. 'And none of the
women he so dated, ever complained or created a fuss about it?'
'Some did and Mrs Lele found out about it, hence the divorce. She almost bankrupted
him. Since then he was careful and discreet.'
'Any particular girl you'd seen with him in the last few weeks?'
'He never brought them to the office.' Annie was quick to answer what she believed
was a daft question.
'Any close friend, male or female, who could give me more details of his personal
life?'
'Not many.' She took out a diary and flipped through pages. 'Oh yes, some girl called
him last night around 7 p.m. I took the call. She was looking for Adit.' Annie mimicked
Adit in a husky voice. 'I asked her, "Who may I say is calling?" and she told me that
she was a personal friend, didn't give me her name, but I know he was eager to take the
call because when I relayed the message, he disconnected the business call and took this
one.' Annie picked up one of phones at her desk and pressed a few buttons.
'This should be it. The call was a minute before seven. I remember because I was
packing up for the day, this is the telephone number. Do you want it?'
'Of course.'
She scribbled it on her writing pad, tore the tiny sheet and passed it to him.
009715...
International number. Dubai.
Annie also wrote down some names and telephone numbers of Lele's friends and
business associates including his ex-wife's, on a sheet of paper, put it in a manila
envelope and handed it over.
'Thanks. You've really been a great help. If you remember anything else that you think
might help us find Mr Leles killer, please contact me immediately.' Vikram gave her his
card, shook her hand and briskly left the office.
He could, as he waited for the elevator outside the glass door, see Rose run into
Annie's room.
Once in the elevator, he gave a once-over to the little slip of paper with the
telephone number Annie had given him: a pointer or extraneous information?

THREE
2007
Mumbai Police HQ was not in Crawford Market; it was in the building opposite it. But
Crawford Market, a legacy of the British, was such an architectural marvel that the area
around it had gladly taken the name like an orphan eager to adopt rich, good-looking
parents. No one remembered how and when it also became a metonym for the Police
HQ, but every cabbie, every convict, every politician, every police station in the city,
and the media referred to it as Crawford Market. Perhaps, it sounded better too:
Crawford Market, Scotland Yard.
Besides the top brass of police, the Crime Branch was stationed here and, as such, there
was a constant turf war between the crime squad and the 90 independent constabularies
across the city.
DCP Rita Ferreira had moved here on a promotion only a few months back. Early
March. She had been in Pune, in the uniformed division, prior to this promotion, having
joined the Indian Police Service a little more than eight years back. She had been excited
about the move, as she wanted to be in the crime squad more than she cared about the
promotion.
Rita was a Goan of Portuguese descent. Catholic by birth, agnostic by experience:
God to her was like Hobbes to Calvin; it was good to have an imaginary friend, but one
couldnt depend on him. A bright girl, she went to St Stephen's College in Delhi where
the police service bug bit her like it bit many others at Stephen's. Her parents had tried
to influence her to take some other administrative service: Police is for men. But she
convinced them that she would be fine, shed fit in. Eight-and-a-half years later, here she
was, reporting to the Joint Commissioner of Police Crime Branch, Mr Vinay Joshi,
who was one down from the head: the Commissioner of Mumbai Police, Mr Sanjay
Saxena. Sexy was what everyone referred to Sanjay Saxena as. Sexy.
Unfortunately, both her parents had passed away in quick succession five years ago.
Battling dehydration from Jim Beam the night before and all the fluid she had lost
perspiring in the Mumbai heat, Rita, sipping chilled water from a refilled plastic bottle,
walked into the newly appointed Operations Room for investigation of the murder of
Adit Lele. Being the chief of the investigation Joshi had three DCPs, other important
matters to attend to, and couldn't solely focus on a case Rita did not have to visit the
Ops Room. Anything she required could be called for from her room, but this being her
first homicide investigation in Mumbai, she wanted to immerse herself in the case, be
close to it. She was, after all, doing a man's job. 'Everything under control?' she asked
looking at Jatin, who sat there with sheets of papers.

'So far so good, ma'am. I've spoken to the Forensic Unit, told them we need the
reports ASAP. Requested them to complete their investigation on the mobile phone and
send the instrument to us by the evening. Asked AirMobile to send us the call-logs from
Lele's mobile, ditto from MTNL for his landline phones: sent them a requisition to give
us a record of all telephone calls made to and from Lele's residence, and office, in the
last thirty days. The clerk, there, has promised to get it ready by 4 p.m. today. Our
constable will collect it in person.'
She smiled. Jatin never failed to impress her. Was he this thorough in his life outside
the job? Or did he let his guard down once he left this place?
'So, the machinery is in motion...'
'Yes, ma'am.'
'Good. I don't think we need any more people for now. Vikram, you and I should be
able to handle the case with the support staff. What do you think?'
'Yes, of course.'
'Anything else?'
'The Inspector from Versova constabulary had called to say all refuse bins of the
apartment complex had been turned out by his men but they found no gun or knife. The
team has questioned every shop and restaurant owner around the area, and the entire Yari
Road in Versova. Most of the shops close around ten, while the restaurants are open till
midnight and as such there is too much of a crowd to notice anything abnormal. Plus, it's
too far from the complex; Mangal Nagar is not even visible to them.'
The manner in which Jatin had paused signified he had some more info.
'However, the watchman at the building gate remembers seeing Lele's blue Ford Ikon
drive into the apartment block a little after 9:30 p.m. last night. The windows of his car
had a dark film so he didn't see if Lele was alone or with someone.'
'Our initial estimate of the time of Lele's death is between 10 p.m. and midnight, so if
he returned home only after nine-thirty, either his guest waited for him or arrived soon
after. Let's wait for Vikram to come back and report what he finds from Lele's office. In
the meantime, ask the local police around his residence and office to call their rats to
check if Lele was in any financial mess, any unusual money transactions, any rumours.
And don't forget to look into if he used drugs, and had any outstanding payments or
rivalries because of them. In any event, if he did drugs, even occasionally, find out
where he got his supplies.
Track down the peddler and bring him in for questioning.'
'Okay, ma'am.'
'Lunch? What are you doing for lunch?'
'The tiffin-wallah should be here in some time.' Jatin looked at his watch.
Tiffin-wallahs, the uninterrupted lunch delivery service in Mumbai since 1880.
Almost two hundred thousand lunch boxes were collected from people's residences,
or caterers, and delivered to their offices at lunch hour. Which club did Jatin Singh
belong to? Did his wife pack his lunch or his mother? Or did he depend on food from
some caterer?

'You're most welcome to join, there's always enough food for more than one person,'
Jatin offered sincerely.
'Thanks, but I'll order something in my room.'
Vikram updated Rita on the conversation at Lele's office from his car and carried on to
Mahim to see the deceased's ex-wife. He tried the Dubai number a few times, but the
phone was not reachable. Possibly the person was on a flight back to Dubai? Now,
manoeuvring his non-air-conditioned jeep in the Mumbai traffic where vehicles crawled
bumper-to-bumper at 5 kmph, he arrived at Crawford Market after 3 p.m. The back of
his shirt was so drenched it looked like he had a shower wearing it. He spent ten minutes
standing with his back directly facing the air-conditioning unit. Relieved, the antennae
moving again, the labouring ant marched to Ops Room. Rita and Jatin, having had their
lunch, were already present. Vikram ran through his detailed notes to apprise the other
two of the days findings. 'The call, which Lele's personal assistant so enthusiastically
described, came from a Dubai mobile number which I've tried many times, but there is
no response.'
'It could well be a business associate travelling to India. If the caller wanted to be
discreet, he or she would have certainly blocked the Caller ID. Anyway, Jatin has asked
for detail call logs. Let's see if there are more calls from the same number or any other
numbers lately. We'll ask someone to call all numbers listed in his contact list on the
mobile phone at any rate. Have we got Lele's phone instrument yet?' Rita peeked at the
clock on the wall. 4 p.m.
'Not yet, but it should be here anytime now.'
'What about his ex-wife?'
'I saw her Priti on the way here. The divorce, it seems, happened under some
really hostile circumstances. Initially, she wasn't even willing to speak about Lele, and I
had to coerce her. She was indifferent to his death no waterworks, thankfully. She
doesn't believe he would have left anything to her in his will, and claims she doesn't
want anything either. She got all that was rightfully hers at the time of divorce, though
with his death the alimony would stop. But, she runs a small clothing boutique and looks
financially comfortable. They never met since, not even once. Despite all that, she
admitted Adit Lele wasn't a ruffian and he didn't deserve what he got in the end.' Vikram
closed his notebook shut.
'Any other relatives?
'No parents. Just one brother who moved to Australia in the early-Nineties. I urged
Priti to visit the morgue at Lilavati Hospital to formally identify the corpse. Arranged for
a car from the local police station to take her there.'
'Thats brilliant work, Vikram. Any friends?'
'Yes. Got a list of some close friends and business associates.'
'Any registered will?'
'Yes, the personal assistant thinks...knows he had one, but wasn't aware where it
was.'
'If we do not hear from anyone by tomorrow afternoon, we should get a search

warrant for his office.' Rita looked at Jatin, who took note.
'I've got some report too,' Jatin said, securing the top of his pen. 'Adit Lele had only
one vice womanising. No drugs, if you do not count alcohol as a drug, which, too, he
took in moderation most of the time. No criminal record, did not own a gun, at least not
legally.
Did not owe anyone money, did not loan any money. No known enemies in personal
life, no business rivals. Basically, a nondescript guy who minded his own business, so to
speak.'
'But still, he managed to offend someone enough to kill him.'
'That's true.'
'I have a nagging feeling it's got to be an ex-boyfriend of some girl he'd been nasty
with,' Vikram had decided.
'So we've got nothing thus far, Rita voiced. 'The only solace is that the media has
been kind to us by relegating the news to a small column on local pages in the afternoon
editions. I have my one-on-one meeting with Mr Joshi first thing tomorrow morning and
I'll mention the case to him, lest he hasn't seen his e-mails. I've created a folder on the
shared drive. Please key in all the notes of this enquiry today. I am expecting reports
from the autopsy and forensic units tomorrow.'
8:00 p.m. The MTNL provided the list of all incoming and outgoing calls made from
Lele's home and office numbers. Barring the last call from the Dubai number at his
office, which his secretary had already told Vikram about, there was a call from the
same number, at Lele's residence, at 9:53 p.m. the same evening, which had lasted less
than three minutes. There was a time when MTNL and every telephone exchange in
the country charged subscribers a fixed sum for three minutes, and in blocks of single
minutes thereafter; the technology of voice transmission might have moved into twentyfirst century, but the exchanges still calculated call times in same chunks. A two-minutefifty-five second call could well be an eleventh-hour business message; a twenty-second
call could be for a final seduction. But both would be registered as three-minute-calls.
Rita looked at Vikram, who tried the Dubai number yet again and put it on speaker:
The number you are trying to contact is currently out of reach. Please try after some
time. The same message, apparently, was repeated in Arabic before the call got
disconnected. No option given to leave a voice mail.
Lele's mobile phone, a Nokia Communicator, was sent back after the Forensics had
sucked the last drop of data from the instrument. The call log showed there was a missed
call from the same Dubai number at 9:51 p.m. So the caller tried the mobile before
calling up Lele's residence line. There was no outbound call from Lele's mobile phone
to the Dubai number. The other calls inbound, outbound and missed were to
acquaintances, which Vikram already had on file. The mobile call summary received
from AirMobile, obviously, corresponded to the log on the phone. Lele had deleted no
calls. Moreover, Lele didn't call or receive many calls from numbers which weren't on
his contact list.
'We need to find this Dubai caller. He or she was the last person who, on record,

appears to have had any contact with Lele, except for the murderer.' Rita's words
sounded like someone, invisible in the room, had pressed the mute button off. The three
had been engrossed in the telephone companies' records for a while pondering how to
advance the investigation.
'I'll keep trying the Dubai number. Maybe he or she is travelling and the phone's
switched off.'
Perchance.
The reconstruction of the prior evening was now evident: Adit Lele left his office, in
Dadar, sometime after 8 p.m. the previous night. He drove to his residence, which in
Mumbai's hostile traffic at that time of the day would have taken him over an hour to get
to. The watchman at the building gate remembered seeing Leles car drive into the
apartment complex after 9:30. He received a call at his landline from a Dubai number,
which he answered, at 9:53 p.m. He died between then and midnight. His maidservant
had told the local police that she had come in the afternoon as every day, cooked his
dinner and left. She had also enlightened them that it wasn't the first time he had not eaten
the food she had prepared for him. Some evenings he ate out, and other times he just
drank himself to sleep. Which implied either Lele had broken his journey at some place
to pick up some food, or snacked on roadside bhajia on his way home or he died before
dinner. How significant was that? The food, surely, wasnt crucial. The content of his
stomach would be reported in the autopsy report. But supposing he had stopped to pick
up a hooker? What about the call he answered at 9:53? Well, he would still take a call at
home in her presence.
Time is the greatest mathematician, they say. Only time would tell if Vikram's phone,
that began ringing this minute, was a divine or diabolic intervention. Vikram looked at
the screen. 'It's from Dadar police station,' he said and moved out of the room, while the
other two paused the already recessed conversation.
'That was a Station House Officer from Dadar Police Station. One of his constables
who had gone to see a close friend of Lele has given some useful info. Adit Lele
laundered money. He was a hawala broker. Vikram returned to update.
Hawala infested Mumbai like pigeon shit. Pathetic, undesired, but ubiquitous. And
after 9/11, with governments around the world tightening the clutches around money
laundering, and many brokers having been caught, it had become an even more lucrative
business for those who were willing to take the risk. Simple demand and supply.
There were couriers at Lele's place, at least, three, four times a week. Large
amounts. The friend knew about couriers from his office. Didn't know if Lele accepted
couriers at his residence, but he said he wouldn't be surprised if that was the case,
Vikram carried on.
The call from Dubai suddenly made more sense. If the courier came for a pick up or
drop at his residence, Lele would have let the person in willingly.
'Could the courier be a female?'
'Not normally, but no reason why not. Women are in every profession these days'
'Like the crime squad?' Rita, in the absence of any breakthrough, attempted at

alleviating the mood.


Faint smiles.
'Get this friend of Lele to disclose all hawala connections Lele worked with. Ask all
local police stations, especially in Dadar and Versova, to comb the area. I need names of
all hawala brokers who have any female couriers. But tell him to be very discreet. I
don't want this info that we're looking for a female in this case to go beyond these
walls. Guys, it's getting to nine, I think we should call it a day. There's not much we can
do now. Let's wait till tomorrow. We'll have some more info to work with.'
'Something that I totally forgot to mention. Newspapers have been calling up for an
update on the murder, and what we've done so far. A story.' Jatin looked at Rita, then
Vikram.
A story. Anything that could sell and make money was a story. Life, death, rape,
looting. Editors that laboured to provide the most informative news to the public did not
head newspapers around the world; businessmen who wanted to sell the lurid stories to
the masses that loved gossip did. At heart, they were all fucking rags, whatever the
faade.
'Let's handle that tomorrow. I'll mention it to Mr Joshi in my meeting. We should
organise a small press conference. We'll give them their story rather than letting them
make one up. Anything else?
The autopsy is tomorrow morning, maam.
I am attending it. Dont worry.

FOUR
2007
Adit Lele lay on a gurney naked as the day he was born, naked as he was found in his
bedroom fomented and prepared for the procedures.
Rita entered the autopsy suite draped in the trademark white paper suit. The airconditioning was powerful enough to freeze blood in the veins of a breathing person and
the disinfectant was so potent even the stiff would bolt away if it could, but she endured
the acridity of disinfectant, and the morbidity around the rotting corpse, the cold steel,
the pile of surgical instruments. Every time she was in the autopsy suite she got reminded
of her own transience: didn't death always have the last laugh? Wasn't it invariably the
winner? Hindus believe in reincarnation; death is only a transitory cessation of physical
body, the soul is recycled. Gita describes two paths along which souls could travel after
death. One was the path of the sun the bright path; the other, the path of the moon, was
the dark path. When a soul travelled along the path of the sun, it never returned, while
those who went down the dark path had to return. The next life depended on how one
lived the just passed one. Where would Adit Lele be, what path had he taken?
The bright light focussing on the gurney spotlighted Lele's cadaver, like he was about
to give the performance of a lifetime. Perhaps, he was. Every corpse had a story, which,
unfortunately, it couldn't tell. At least, not by itself. Dr Syed Khan, director of morbid
pathology for the state government, came into the theatre with his assistant,
acknowledged Rita with a smile and went straight for his gloves. Attaching his
Dictaphone, covering his mouth with a surgical mask, he carefully selected a scalpel,
like an artist picking out a brush for the right stroke. Like a faithful caddy, his assistant
followed him to the gurney pushing a trolley that carried enough tools to dissect the
whole human race. The duo exchanged a silent dialogue with their eyes. Dr Khan
examined the corpse, pressed his fingers into the chest of his subject to check for
ribcage. The scalpel came down next, and in one fine line made an incision from the
neck down to the pelvis impinging on the slit the murderer had started. The desiccated
body lay open displaying the innards. Lungs, liver, heart, kidneys, stomach, intestines
one of them would divulge how Lele died. Dr Khan dictated every cut, every dissection
into his microphone, as Rita observed and waited for words to flow out of the doctors
mouth. Medical jargon.
He seems to have died of Class IV Haemorrhaging excessive bleeding, and not
from the bullet wound, Dr Khan finally spoke to Rita after forty minutes. The victim
was vivisected, Miss Ferreira stabbed ante-mortem. The wounds were inflicted
while he was still alive.

Of course, Lele couldn't have bled so much if he was already dead, she should have
known. Rita's expression changed the goose bumps were beginning to stand up on her
bare arms under the borrowed paper coat. She looked at the corpse, then at the doctor,
fully realising the baleful implications the doctor's words carried: the murderer had
made Lele suffer, mutilated his body to make an example. Like someone was trying to
convey a message. But to whom? He could have killed Lele with the gun, but he had not.
He killed Lele in a dreadfully insensate manner. Why?
'The gashes are shallow, four inches deep, the doctor continued detachedly, but
made with a serrated knife that had broad teeth like a saw. In my calculation, it should be
a sharp, but small knife. Perhaps even a folding one that could easily be concealed in a
pocket or handbag.
But doctor, if he was stabbed while he was alive, how come he didnt scream or
make any noise?
We shall soon know that too.
The doctor's assistant picked up an electric saw and, like Hannibal, cut open the top
of the head and removed it like it was a cereal bowl. The room was suddenly silent
again, except for the rhythmic ballad being hummed by the air-conditioning unit. Dr Khan
went through the brain carefully and extracted the bullet, which was still lodged in
Leles brain.
9 x19 calibre, Rita softly told herself when she saw the slug. The ballistics could
work out the gun from it.
The bullet was fired from very close range, the skin on his forehead is singed, Dr
Khan spoke after twenty minutes. I was correct; the bullet was fired into an already
dead brain. And the reason he didnt make noises was because he was drugged.
Drugged?
Yes, he was given some kind of a sedative. I apologise I cannot tell you any more at
this stage till we have tested for the drug in the lab.
Thanking Dr Khan and signing the relevant papers, Rita left the autopsy suite. The
smell of disinfectant accompanied her to the waiting car.
Vinay Joshi, Joint Commissioner, Mumbai Police, and the Head of Crime Branch was as
henpecked as they came. Women who took every minor and major decision in his life
besieged him. Starting with his mother who had decreed that he join the police, his wife
decided what he ate, and how much, his teenage daughter influenced what he wore and
DCP Rita Ferreira told him what to do next. Humble, gangling, balding. They often say
Herg took inspiration from real people for characters that he illustrated in his comics.
One wondered if the Belgian had, perhaps, met Joshi's grandfather when drawing
Professor Calculus. The resemblance was striking.
'Murder?' Joshi asked as though he had never heard about a crime as grave before.
'Yes sir, in Versova. We were called in by the local police station for assistance right
away and have taken charge of the case.'
Joshi nearly asked why, when it could well have been the local constabulary's sole
responsibility. The crime squad did not have to intervene till it was convinced the crime

merited their time and resources. What had happened to the old order? Why was Rita
Ferreira proactively seeking to take a plunge in such undesirable waters? But he
reckoned withdrawal was neither advisable nor feasible now. On the other hand, Sexy,
too, would certainly probe why. And then the goddamn media. Unwarranted work,
unnecessary stress.
'Do we really need a press conference?' he questioned for the sake of it. He knew
dogged Rita had already decided.
'Yes sir. We owe it to the public.'
'Carry on. I don't think I need to attend, unless you feel otherwise. Keep me updated
though.'
Joshi abhorred the press, press conferences, and any spotlight whatsoever, on him.
'When are you meeting the boss?' Rita almost said Sexy.
'Tomorrow. Is this something he should know?'
'Not really. I'm very sure he must have picked up the news from the uniformed wing.
In case he wants details, I'll keep the Chronology folder up-to-date for you sir. It's saved
as M_June_19 on the shared drive.'
'Thanks.'
By 11 a.m., the Ops Room had transformed from the previous day. Two of the walls had
got a facelift with new wallpapers: one had the map of Mumbai on the wall with red
pins on Versova and Dadar, the other had an enlarged blueprint of Mangal Nagar
apartment block that showed there was a pedestrian gate at the rear of the complex, of
which, of course, the watchman at the main gate had no sight. The assailant might have
known of this exit and could have comfortably walked out without arousing any
suspicion.
The third wall in the Ops Room was scrappy; a picture of Lele, and numerous A4sized papers with phone numbers and other contact details of various police stations,
and the officers responsible for them, in large fonts blemished it. Vikram and Jatin must
have triaged through countless paper files and online data since early in the morning to
come up with all the important info. They sat reading some reports and sipping coffee
when Rita joined them in the room. She narrated what Dr Khan had discovered in the
post-mortem. 'Of course, we'll get the detailed reports later in the day,' she concluded.
They looked at the scene of crime photographs for some time. No clue. Nothing. The
perpetrator had been extremely careful.
Dr Khan sent in his report after lunch.
'Trichloroacetaldehyde, Vikram read out the name of the drug that had been used to
sedate Lele.
What?
'Tri-chloro-acetal-de-hyde,' he enunciated.
'Got that. Now, could you say that in English please? Ritas voice exhibited her
hopelessness to comprehend.
It was a mis-prescribed sedative and hypnotic drug in the nineteenth century.' Like a

tutor, Vikram carried on reading the notes. 'It's called Chloral Hydrate when mixed with
H2O. Its soluble in water, fruit juice or alcohol without altering the taste of the drink.
Reacts very quickly. If administered in larger than the prescribed quantity, it can lead to
unconsciousness and the person can stay knocked out up to an hour, or more in some
cases. Chloral, by the way, is also one of the main compounds that form Chloroform.
Colloquially, its called liquid chloroform. It's used in cough syrups and sleeping-aids,
which are available at most pharmacies in Mumbai.'
'Available? On prescription or OTC?'
'Yes, but it would be in a highly diluted state in some cough syrups, impossible to
knock out someone unless you emptied more than a litre into someone's throat.'
'That couldn't have been possible. Why would Lele have allowed someone to feed
him cough syrup? Carry on.
'Its other uses are in industries like agriculture and petroleum. Interestingly, it is also
used in manufacturing of cheap alcohol, and as such a lot of it is traded illegally.'
'So Adit Lele was, most probably, administered the drug in his drink.'
'That is correct, ma'am.'
I am not surprised. I didnt envisage a person of his build taking a knife in his groin
lying down.' Rita slumped into a chair. 'Any retail traders who supply small quantities of
this chemical...I can't imagine our suspect could have stolen from the bigger players,
you'd expect they'd have enough security for such toxic chemicals. The killer could, of
course, have bribed or persuaded some employee though.'
'Not one would admit to it.'
'I know.'
'What about asking the local police stations across the city to raid all bootleggers
and seize their stuff?' asked Jatin, who had been quiet for a while.
'This is Mumbai. We don't know if we're looking at a dozen or a thousand such
operations, Jatin,' Vikram elucidated.
And that was the truth.
There was an ever-increasing demand for the cheapest intoxicant, which in certain
cases contained upwards of 50 per cent alcohol. You could get a quarter bottle of
alcohol and a street-side whore for half a dollar each, in Mumbai. How could a police
force of just forty thousand reach everywhere, control the whole enchilada?
Vikram took a breath before disclosing the trivia. 'The report also states that Lele
hadn't had dinner that night, and had had no sexual intercourse immediately preceding his
death.'
'The ballistic fingerprinting matched the bullet recovered from Lele's brain to a Glock
26 a subcompact. 'Fired from a close range, which we already know,' Jatin
commented, reciting the ballistics report that came in after 3 p.m.
'Glock,' Rita repeated faintly. 'Carry on.' There was an empty chair in the room, but
she perched herself on the desk.
'The report also states there could have been one more person in the room just before
or after the murder. A male.'

'No signs of any female?'


'Nothing recent. There were a few stray hairs in one of the hair brushes at Lele's
dressing table, but the forensics think that the hairs, although a female's, weren't plucked
in the last seventy-two hours.'
'We should anyway get them analysed to see if we find a match in the database.'
Vikram scribbled the boss' instructions.
'They also confirm Lele was slaughtered in his bed. The cadaver wasn't shipped,
from elsewhere, post-mortem.
It would be ridiculous to even think the murderer created a tableau of arranging a
corpse naked. Why would anyone do that? What else?
'The serology department has verified the blood was only Lele's.
The silence in the room prompted Jatin to continue.
They found the assailant had washed with soap in the sink before he left. Looking at
the crime scene photographs, it's hardly surprising that he would have bloodied his
hands the way he butchered Lele. There were some fragments of dead skin on the bed,
which couldnt be matched to Lele. The experts analysed that to confirm the gender of
the person as male.
However, it could be from a couple days before the incident. And it could well be
totally unrelated to the murder.'
So were looking for a possible male suspect. Rita was concerned. It had been
over 24 hours since the murder and all they had established was that the assailant was a
male.
If it was a male, why was Lele naked? Jatin was nave.
Thats hardly any clue. A lot of people sleep naked. Words had flown out of her
mouth before her mind had processed, like a wrong hit on the keyboard sending a file to
the printer. Too late. Did it sounded like an insight into her sleeping habits? Rita looked
at both the men who oh no, were they imagining her naked now? First impressions
might be overrated, she carried on regardless. Merely being unclothed in bed, at the
time of the attack, doesnt conclusively ascertain there was a woman around. In fact, it
does not give away anything.
And the floral womanly scent?
Could be a blind; could be nothing.
The press conference was looming closer every minute. In two hours. What lead
could they hope for in the next couple of hours? Chances were slim to none. Of course
they could get lucky, but it was laughable to assume luck as part of any investigation
process.
Hope isn't a strategy or an answer.
Fortunately, the turnout at the press conference wasn't as big as expected. A random
death of an inconspicuous man in a Mumbai suburb wasn't of much interest to the bigger
media houses: most of them, now, owned by large corporations. This would hardly sell
any extra papers or attract additional viewers. A line item, maximum. Rita, accompanied
by Vikram and Jatin and a few uniformed officers, gave a brief synopsis and assured that

the crime squad was looking for a male suspect. The entire Dubai angle was suppressed.
Why incite the press?
'Any questions?' Rita concluded.
'Could we have the autopsy report, DCP Ferreira?' asked a stunning young girl sitting
in the second row.
Rita looked closely to see whom she represented. The girl was sharp to infer.
'I am from NEWS of the DAY.'
NEWS of the DAY was the darkest shit in yellow journalism in Mumbai. The son of
a corrupt ex-minister ran the local paper from a plush office in Nariman Point. Like
many other crooked politicians in the country, the father had siphoned millions from the
state exchequer before being made to resign. The son getting into media was a clever
ploy. Media scarcely maligned media. It is like four people, with loaded guns in their
hands facing each other, who knew that if one shot, all would die. The maverick son of
the ousted minister, Amit Narang was now getting back at those in power by uncovering
the failure of any state- run organisation. The police was an easy enterprise to target.
The masses loved NEWS of the DAY. It was cheap, carried scintillating news,
Bollywood gossip, a few lewd pictures of scantily clad females, and over-exaggerated
anti-establishment op-ed columns. How the government and those in power were
exploiting the poor, the underprivileged. And, now, to cap it all, they had got themselves
a reporter who was fit enough to be on Page 3.
'We cannot pass on the autopsy or forensic reports to media Miss '
'Anita. Anita Raizada. And may I ask why the public shouldn't be aware of the
investigation?'
'Because it's confidential. We cannot make the entire investigation public. I'm sorry.
Anything else?'
Inspector Jatin Singh was the last to leave the office. It was almost 10 p.m. when he
walked out of the building. In the darkness, his sharp-cop eyes could see a silhouette
move near his parked jeep. As a reflex, his hand moved to the holster inside his jacket to
feel for the faithful service revolver. It was in place. He slowed down and pulled out a
cigarette from his shirt pocket. He waited for his eyes to get accustomed to the darkness
before he walked towards the vehicle. Remember, panic only advantages the predator,
he repeated in his mind.
'I am not armed Inspector,' she said and raised both her arms over her head after she
inhaled a cigarette and emitted a sharp beam of smoke.
'Who are you and what are you doing near my vehicle?'
'Anita Raizada.'
'The press conference is over.'
'The day isn't.
'What do you want?'
'A drink.' She was gorgeous. Even more attractive than how she had looked at the
press conference only a few hours ago. Young she didn't look older than 23 or 24,
demure, petite, five feet three or four, straight brown shoulder length hair, espresso eyes.

A casual ocean blue polo shirt and figure hugging blue jeans. She was someone God
or whoever had crafted. A work of art, born or made in heaven. 'I promise I won't
talk shop. And the drink's on me too.'
'Why?'
'Why not?'
It was an undemanding request from one of the prettiest girls he had met since his
college days. He looked at her again to assess. Thin waist. Admirable chest. Not big, but
right for her frame. High cheekbones. Flattering jaw. Shapely lips. And a just-right butt.
Plus, she had promised she wouldn't talk shop. Why was he being an arse? Who was he
kidding?
'Okay. One drink. Where?'
'Totos at Bandra?'
'You got a car?' He looked at her. She shook her head. No.
'Get in then.' He unlocked his.
So you went out with a media girl? Vikram Patil was surprised when Jatin divulged
about his meeting with Anita the previous evening.
Thats one way to look at it, I suppose. I didnt go out for a drink with the NEWS of
the DAY correspondent. I spent an evening with Anita Raizada. And anyway, it was only
a few drinks.
Vikram gave a lopsided smile. He could twig the difference. There wasnt anything
detrimental as such, but the top bananas up the Mumbai Police tree might have another
view.
Rita did not have an adverse view of the rendezvous either. Nevertheless, she
advised Jatin to be cautious. Be careful of your words, these journalists have a
tendency to misinterpret and misquote. Do not, at any rate, disclose any intelligence, or
investigation that is not in the public domain.
No worries, maam. I am not sure I shall be meeting her again.
You make me laugh. I know you might not be looking forward to see her again, but,
believe me, she would.
I shall decline
I wouldnt if I were you. Its good to know what the media thinks. Anyway, I leave
it to you. Just make sure you warn her before every meeting that it is off the record and
anything you might say is your own view, and not the departments.
Trust me on this, maam.
The girl, as Rita remembered, had enormous chips on both shoulders. The arrogance
of youth. Rita could judge it would become a nuisance in little time; close friendship
between a police officer and a reporter that too for a loud-mouthed rag would
soon be a conflict of interests. Media bodies had always courted with the police for
information, for tidings, for various favours. Anita would dig for sensationalising stories
and Jatin would have an awkward time concealing true facts that could potentially seed
hair-raising news articles. This could be some hard to resist pillow talk, she mused.
Nevertheless, there was little difference in being a friend or a foe of a snake; sooner or

later it would bite you, Rita heard her brain whisper.


As a matter of fact, she wanted to see you to apologise, Jatin said in a soft tone, as
if he was the one apologising.
What for?
For her awkward questions last evening.
I am OK. The fourth estate has the right to question anyone.
The transcripts of the previous days investigations were at the desk in the room.
Rita picked them and left for her office.
As requested by crime squad, the uniforms had covered the neighbourhood. 54 fulltime uniformed officers had been on the job round the clock.
Did you see anything strange last night?
Did you notice any suspicious man or woman hanging around the apartment
block?
Did you see Mr Lele in the last 24 hours? If yes, when?
Any sound/scream? Gunshot?
No one knew anything about the heinous killing or the killer.
It turned up nothing except frivolous information. Lele loved chicken-tikka as a pizza
topping. Enjoyed cricket. Treasured old Hindi film DVDs.
No hawala broker in Mumbai had a female courier. Or so the reports from various
sources claimed. The Dubai number Vikram had obtained from Lele's personal assistant
neither responded nor returned the call.
A search warrant for Leles premises was obtained. His personal laptop didnt offer
much help. E-mails were few, and only official. An occasional joke or chain mail
forwarded. It was mostly used for accounts, but had no reference to any hawala
transaction. Obviously not. Hawala prospered on verbal commitments, not on receipts.
Internet search history was full of porn, some even downloaded to the hard drive. Lele,
contrary to what his personal assistant might have believed, had no testified will, and in
that case all that was his was now his only brother's, who was in Sydney. Fortunately,
there was no one to cry for what had once been Adit Lele. It made Rita think how hollow
any success was, how passing life was, when there was no one to shed a tear?
The local police station had called in Anne Leles personal assistant for
questioning, in light of her relationship with her boss. Yes, she had slept with him on
occasions. Hardly a crime. She lived with her mother at Byculla, and was with her
mother the whole time. The alibi was double checked with neighbours who had seen her
return home from work and then, again, around 11 p.m.
Lele's bank account showed no irregular transactions, despite him laundering money
all over the world. All his friends, business associates, and even acquaintances had been
checked out and cleared. The police had contacted all the recently used telephone
numbers on his mobile; none of the people called had met Lele that evening. There had
been no headway. Not a single fucking lead.

FIVE
2007
Samir Suri was livid. A two-and-a-half hour delay on a two hour and twenty minute
flight was deplorable. Utterly unacceptable, at least, to someone as busy and important
as him: CEO of India for a large Korean conglomerate. The reason he had agreed to a
mid-day flight from New Delhi, leaving other critical work, was to meet two people in
the evening before his day- long meeting the next day to discuss, and sign, the
underwriting agreement for the upcoming IPO; the Korean parent company needed funds
for expansion, and there was no better market to exploit than the rising middle class of a
newly awakened India, aroused by materialism.
And why not? For over five decades since Independence, the economy had been
shielded from foreign companies. The state controlled infrastructure, core industries, the
licences. Numerous jokes did the rounds for decades that India had gone from British
Raj to Licence Raj. Those walls had been pulled down now, foreign investment was
coming in, and the citizens even got opportunities to invest in overseas businesses.
Corporate India was waking up. Brown dollar was becoming important.
Samir Suri had no doubts that the IPO would be oversubscribed, but the underwriters
had to be convinced. For that reason, his first meeting for the evening had been
scheduled with the Executive Assistant to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra state; Samir
would confirm the company's commitment to invest in the state by putting up a
manufacturing plant near Pune. That information, he knew, when it got transmitted from
the CM's office, would soften the underwriting firm's questions. When the flight got
delayed, he had to ask his secretary to reschedule the meeting for breakfast the following
day.
It would be hectic, but it had to be done.
Samir looked out of the window as the captain asked the staff to "prepare for
landing" in ten minutes. The Arabian Sea was calm. Marine Drive was distinguishable
by its streetlights along the promenade that resembled a string of pearls.
8:29 p.m. Samir's mobile rang the instant he switched it on. He was still walking out
of the aircraft. He glanced at the screen to see the called ID. Unknown Caller. He thought
for a moment, and then picked it up. 'Good evening, Samir here...oh hello...yes.
Yes...yes...I know, I did. Unfortunately, my flight got delayed...oh, you know...I am sure.
Oh, yes, of course, I want that, not so tiredhaI am staying at ITC Grand Maratha...oh
you know that?
Fantastic. What time can you make it there...it should take me, uh, thirty minutes? OK...I
shall wait for you in the room...is there a telephone number I could call and give you my

room number after I check in? Oh, you'll call me? Fine. See you soon.' He killed the
call and smiled. the boot.
The chauffeur from the hotel paged for him as he walked out of the airport.
'Could I smoke in the car?' Samir asked the chauffeur, as the latter put the baggage in
'You're a guest sir, you can do anything.' When had any driver stopped any guest from
misusing the car? This was Mumbai; the chauffeurs dare not instruct the rich guests.
Guest was God, a guest that was paying was an even bigger God. A guest could smoke,
fuck, whatever in the backseat...
Samir lit up and called his wife. 'Hello sweetheart. Just got inyes, Im in the car
now.'
'Tired?' she asked.
'Oh yes. Listen, I have a breakfast meeting, so will grab a quick bite and turn in early
tonight. I was thinking of switching off my phone. Have a good night. Love you.'
Samir checked in at the hotel, took the elevator to the room and waited for the phone call
for his scheduled meeting. This appointment, too, was imperative for him. He inspected
the minibar. Why did they call it a minibar when it carried enough stock to intoxicate a
whole herd of hippos? He smiled and fetched two miniature bottles of Chivas from the
bar, upended them into a tumbler, added club soda, and took a large swig.
His phone rang. A smile, inadvertently, passed through his lips when he looked at the
screen. Unknown caller.

SIX
1982
Margaret Flynn. Deborah O'Donnell. Viviane Casey. However Irish the names might
have sounded, the first names were common in India a legacy reminiscence of the
200-year British Raj.
Margaret, sitting with the other two in the back of a local cab a Premier Padmini,
which was no better or worse than a Lada; the Jaguars were still a few thousand miles
away unremittingly solaced Viviane, as the latter was still enervated with the
questions she had been posed by the officer at the check-in desk at Delhi. Despite
attempting to be inconspicuous in her efforts, the middle-aged cab driver, smoking a
local foul smelling cigarette, caught the tension in the passenger cabin.
'Problam?' he enquired in Hinglish looking at them in the rear-view mirror. 'Oh no.
She's just upset. Nothing to worry about.'
'You from where?'
'Bombay.'
He knew it wasn't true, but he didn't care. 'Colaba, where?' he asked, lighting up
another of those stinking cigarettes, which were rolled in a funny leaf, not in paper. The
girls recognised what it was and looked at each other in surprise. Smiles broke and the
mood changed, albeit temporarily. It was the bidi, a local smoke made popular in Soviet
Union by the legendary Bollywood film star of yesteryears, Raj Kapoor, whose films
were extremely popular in the Soviet in the Sixties and Seventies. The smokes were
cheap a pack of thirty bidis cost the same as a single Marlboro stick and were
common with the working class. But God, they reeked.
'At Gateway of India.'
It was getting close to 11 a.m. The infamous stop-start Bombay traffic had taken
more time than the flight from Delhi to Bombay. Unlike Moscow, the smoke from cars
and funny three-wheeled auto-rickshaws was nauseating; the noise and the traffic were
dreadful.
Besides, there were aggressive beggars at every traffic light, something that the girls
had never experienced in Moscow. Why didn't the government provide for these poor
people?
According to the agreed timetable, Mr Patel would be there anytime, if he had
checked the landing time of the flight. They had a little over four hours to pass.
Breakfast, coffee, a bit of tourism around Gateway of India and it would be about that
time, Margaret calculated in her head. All should be fine soon.
The cabbie dropped them near Taj Palace hotel and left. 11:03 a.m.: Coffee.

11:15 a.m.: Sandwiches from a street hawker. 11:30 a.m.: No sign of Mr Patel.
12:00 a.m.: Viviane: 'I'm scared.'
Margaret: 'We've crossed the biggest hurdle. There's absolutely no reason to fret
now. ???? ? ????, ??????? ???????. Have faith in God, dear girl.
Deborah: ?? ??????? ????????????. You worry too much. Margaret: 'No more
Russian, please. Speak in English only.' 12:52 p.m.: Margaret: 'Anyone hungry?'
Nays.
01:23 p.m.: Deborah: 'I need to go to the toilet.' Viviane: 'Me too.'
Margaret: 'Why don't we go to a caf, have a drink and you two can relieve
yourselves?'
Deborah: 'How do you muster up such brilliant ideas?' Smiles.
Margaret: 'But, we have to be quick. Cannot afford to miss Mr Patel.' 02:22 p.m.:
Deborah: 'Will he come?'
Margaret: 'Of course he will. Just be patient.' 03:17 p.m.: No sign of Mr Patel.
03:39 p.m.: Still no sign of Mr Patel.
Why hadn't he come? Wasn't he intimated of their travel? Would he come at all?
When? What if he didn't? Was he already here, but didn't recognise them? Margarets
mind went into an overdrive, but she maintained a calm faade.
04:00 p.m.: Deborah: 'What do we do now?'
Margaret: 'Hang around for a few more hours. I am sure he'll turn up.'
04:36 p.m.: Viviane: 'It'll be dark in some time. If he doesn't come to pick us up,
where do we go at night?'
The hysteria was disseminating. How would they fend for themselves?
04:59 p.m.: Margaret: 'Let me make a call. You two, listen carefully. Stay here. I'll
locate a public phone and call Moscow to check if something's wrong. Do not, I repeat,
do not move from here. If Mr Patel comes, don't go with him. Wait for me. I'll be back in
ten minutes. Be alert and be brave.' Margaret unzipped her tote and rummaged to locate
her little green diary. She patted the two girls on their heads, like a mother, and left.
05:13 p.m.: Margaret returned. 'I cannot get through. No one's answering the phone.'
Viviane: 'I'm worried.'
Deborah: 'Me too.'
The girls weren't geared up for a no-show by Mr Patel; everything, until this moment
except for the little touch-and-go moment at the Delhi airport had gone exactly to
plan. Why, then, should Mr Patel not show up?
Margaret: 'He'll come. Maybe he's got delayed by some other work.' Deborah: 'What
other work?'
Margaret: 'I don't know girl. I am only speculating. I am equally worried.' Silence
for a few minutes. Then:
Margaret: 'Let's set a time. If he doesn't surface by seven-thirty, we go looking for a
place to stay for the night.'
Deborah: 'Where?'
Margaret: 'Around here. We act as three girls on a vacation to Bombay. We'll find a

cheap room nearby.'


Viviane: 'I'll sleep in your room.'
Margaret: 'We'll all sleep in the same room, don't worry.' Mollification.
Repose.
06:13 p.m.: Even the phantom of Mr Patel was disassembling. Hopes had started to
dissipate. With each passing minute, the probability of Mr Patel arriving to pick them up
diminished. They had passed the entire day hanging around Gateway of India, so he
couldn't have missed them if he came. Three young girls waiting would be conspicuous
enough. They wished they weren't blazing enough for other men who might have been
watching them.
Daylight was a guest now. It would soon be gone.
06:58 p.m.: Margaret was the first to notice two men watching them. They had been
there for, at least, the past ten minutes. She couldn't hear anything although she could
comprehend that the guys were talking about the three of them. She, however, decided
against mentioning it to Deborah and Viviane and raising unnecessary hopes. Besides,
who knew who they were? What if they were cops looking for three girls who had
absconded from New Delhi this morning? Should she alarm her friends? Be prepared to
run? But she waited. The two men conversed for the last time and walked towards them.
They must have been ten feet away before Deborah and Viviane noticed them.
'Are you waiting for Mr Patel?' asked the guy in a blue shirt. Unshaven for a few
days, the guy was well over six feet, built like a bouncer and reeked of cheap tobacco.
He must have been thirty-five, black gelled hair, combed back.
'Yes.' Deborah was excited.
'I am Ramesh Patel,' the other guy in check shirt responded. He was older than blueshirt, but shorter and thinner. He took out his wallet and showed the girls their pictures.
'I got these pictures from Moscow,' he spoke in perfect English.
'Why didn't you come earlier?'
'Had an urgent task to finish. Let's go.' The nightmare had ended.
Or so it seemed. 'Come on now.'
Check-shirt walked in front and blue shirt walked behind the girls.
Patel poked around in his trouser pocket, pulled out a cigarette and lit up without
stopping. The girls, having met Mr Patel the saviour and their immediate worries over,
blithely walked behind him. Dusk had set in, the sun had retired, but as they crossed
Colaba, the girls noticed the dressed-up women accosting at street corners, and men
stopping to negotiate. Two things never stopped in Bombay; in local parlance they were
called khudai and chudai: digging and fucking. The streets were dug up for repairs,
laying cables, and the hookers peddled ass at every corner from Colaba to Juhu. No
weekends. The difference between Moscow and Bombay was stark enough to be
discernible to the teenagers. Strangely, the buildings were beautiful, but not maintained.
Theatres and pubs got their attention too.
Now, they were within touching distance of a new, rich, free, happy life.
Inadvertently, the three looked at each other and smiled: within touching distance of a

dream life, their countenances screamed. Exhaustion and fear were left behind at
Gateway of India. If all went to the plan, 24 hours later they would be in London.
They walked to the car park nearby, threw their little bags into the boot of a battered,
pale white unrecognisable make of a car and got in. The girls in the rear, check-shirt
drove and Mr Patel sat in front.
How long is the drive? whispered Deborah.
Shh girl, youre so impatient. Weve just started. Remember he's got to take us to
a safe place,' Viviane explained.
The car turned left from Madam Cama Road into Cuffe Parade Road and the skyrises started to show. Cuffe Parade was a posh residential address. Land reclaimed from
the sea and turned into offices and luxury living for the rich. It had all the hustle-bustle of
a lively place, though none of the grandness they had witnessed near the Taj Hotel. Mr
Patel glanced back at the girls. The car stopped at the gates of what appeared to be
an enormous sky-rise residential complex. New and swish. Check-shirt mumbled
something, in Hindi, to the building watchman, who raised the barrier for the car to go
through. Out of the car, into the foyer, Mr Patel ushered the three girls into the elevator.
Check-shirt followed.
'Come,' Mr Patel gestured to the girls who obediently walked into the landing behind
him. The security guard or the doorman or whoever he was gave a meek smile to
Mr Patel, as if he wasn't sure whether he should smile or not. The 21st floor was more
ostentatious than what the exterior of the building had promised. There were four
apartments on this floor, which seemed to belong to the same owner. Or, perhaps, all the
four owners were equally flamboyant. The place stank of stale tobacco and cheap
alcohol, and it was only 7:30.
Someone had been informed about their arrival and the door, to the corner apartment,
was mechanically unlatched.
The anteroom was even more la-de-la. Nothing was subtle or refined. Every penny
spent on the room was garish and loud. The scarlet carpet was thick enough to silence
steps taken in any kind of shoes. The shimmering on the luxurious carpet resembled
Scotchguard; the visitors to this house, it seemed, certainly werent desirous of leaving
any prints behind. The crimson curtains drawn, as if to cut out any daylight from the
windows, contrasted with glossy ivory walls. Despite the room being lit with numerous
lights, it was designed to be dim. Sparsely furnished with a large tan leather sofa, a few
chairs, a coffee or alcohol table that had a few opened bottles and glasses
scattered around. There were four people in the hall: three men and a woman, all of them
blowing smoke from lit cigarettes in their hands. The two ashtrays on the coffee table
were overflowing with stubs, which explained the stench of stale tobacco.
'Is this where we'll stay?' asked Deborah, who was standing behind the other two,
her tone revealing her displeasure.
'You expected to go to the Taj?' Patel retorted sarcastically.
'Welcome, mdear girls.' The lady in the room got up from the sofa. She must have
been in her early forties. A large woman, she wore a black sleeveless gown-like dress

that ended slightly above her ankles, patent leather open-toe high-heeled shoes and
enough make- up to challenge a panther chameleon. She came closer and hugged the
three girls, one by one, in her huge arms. 'Tis so nice to see ya.
Margaret smiled back. She could sense that the environment daunted her two friends,
thus it was important she stayed calm.
How was the journey?
Good. We are very tired Miss I am Hina.
'Im Margaret. And this is Deborah, and Viviane,' she introduced the other two. 'How
pretty!'
'As I mentioned, we are really exhausted, so if you could show us our room, we
could chat in the morning.'
The six pairs of eyes, in the room, scoured the girls from top to bottom, taking their
time to lecherously pause at their breasts, their bodies. They looked at each other; their
eyes exchanged some unspoken conversation amongst them before an infectious grin
travelled from one to another.
The girls couldn't comprehend why.
'Take them to the room and ask them to get ready for the evening, barked the biggest
man in the room and took a large sip from his glass. Pathak, dressed in jeans and black
T- shirt, seemed to be the top gun of this shebang. Mr lamb-chop sideburns wore a
sleeveless T, his elephant-trunk sized bare arms tattooed from wrists till shoulders. He
appeared to be drunk, already, and in a surly mood. Before the girls could grasp
anything, he turned to them and roared again. Passports? he stretched his hand.
Vishnu Pathak not his real name surely, but it was so long ago that he had himself
forgotten what he was originally christened as was in his mid-forties. Exactly 45 the
weekend just gone by. He had been in the business of luring young girls from all over
India - it didn't really matter where they came from, and some had come from Nepal too
into prostitution, pushed into the oldest profession by circumstances or trickery or
both. His resume, in the last two decades, could claim over two hundred girls some
even under-aged - bought from panderers and peddled into his club to be exploited. Sex
was his business. If a few self-righteous people found him a heretic, it was their
problem; lots, who mattered and who paid, loved him. There was a need for hookers,
and if he didn't do it, someone else would peddle ass to the recession-proof market of
tricks who sought these pleasures. He had one of the most elite clientele in Bombay
rich men, old men, young men, even some B or C grade celebrities who could afford a
ten grand a night or a couple of grand for a shot as they called it. And his biggest talent
was discretion. These three fresh girls young half-wits would be worth lots more.
Young flock always had many takers, nubile ones got even more cash. But what
transcended that was their skin colour. Pale colour outsold everything. And, these were
not just any other Indian fair-skinned girls, they were the first White girls in his club, and
the tricks would love to shag them. If it hadn't been for the money, he'd have shagged
them himself this very moment, but the dirty greybeards would part with a lot more for
virgins, he recognised. He could always shaft them later.

Tis required for identification purpose; well return it today itself, Hina explained.
The other two men, Nripesh and Om, though giants in size, sat and watched the girls
meekly.
The flibbertigibbet teenagers tamely dug into their bags and handed over the
passports to Pathak. Hina exchanged a fleeting look with him and wrapping her arms
around Margaret, Deborah and Viviane took them into the flat.
Like a hotel, the anteroom opened into a long, carpeted corridor that connected all
the four apartments on the floor. They passed a few rooms, but all of them were shut. The
rest of the flat was equally tawdry. The hallway had two recessed spotlights dimmed for
muted lighting. Apart from the two recessed spotlights dimmed to darken the place, there
was no other light. The girls, questioning themselves if they grew mushrooms here, held
hands and followed Hina, who escorted them to the end of the corridor and pushed open
a door on the left.
Come in.
The room was no less pretentious than the anteroom and hallway. Small but
ostentatious, the fifteen by fifteen room had a double bed in one corner, which had been
made up for guests, with two pillows and a few cushions carelessly scattered on it. The
stench of stale tobacco, it seemed, permeated throughout the flat. The little window,
covered by thick red curtains that matched the ones in the reception hall, was shut to
prevent the disgusting odour from escaping. A little cupboard or makeshift wardrobe,
with a shiny veneer, was kept near the window. On the opposite side of the bed there
was a dressing table; a door was ajar to an inadequately lit room, which, by the hum of
the little exhaust inside, gave away its identity. The door was the only cavity on this wall
opposite to the bed, which, otherwise, had floor to ceiling mirrors.
Jesus. Were they supposed to stay in this? Could we see other rooms? Margaret
asked. Why?
This seems to be reeking Margaret twitched her nose and glanced at the younger
two, who nodded in acquiescence.
Oh, Cinderella wants nother room? The tone was part derisive, part acerbic.
Well, if you dont have three clean rooms, were okay to share.
There was a short shrift from Hina.
Excuse me. Could we speak to the manager please?
Im the manager. Tis the only room available for tonight. Okay?
The girls looked at each other. Viviane, still holding Margarets hand, pressed her
fingers hard to convey her acceptance.
Well share it. But, could we have a better one if ones available later? Another
short shrift.
Have your menses started?' Hina abruptly inquired looking at the three. 'Yes. But
why do you ask?'
The old boiler carried on regardless. 'Is any of you on now?
The girls might have learnt English and learnt a bit of Indian and Irish accents to get
past in Delhi, and the Immigration at Heathrow, but they werent taught this ugly patois.

The three exchanged a fleeting look.


Is any one of you on the rag now?
Intimate questions as these had no reason to pop up; all the girls required was a
place for a nightcap. And they had paid for it. Hinas expression had metamorphosed,
from the smiling lady they had first seen in the anteroom, to an intolerant prison
wardress.
No.
No.
No.
'You lost you cherry yet?' Hina looked at Viviane. No.
'You?'
Deborah shook her head.
'And you, troupe leader?' She turned to Margaret. 'Listen Hina, I think...'
Finding Margarets tone a bit assertive, Hina, without a warning, swung her right
arm and placed a tight slap across the girls face. Before the other two could grasp what
happened, Hina held Margaret's hair in the fist, yanked them and placed another slap,
with the left hand, this time, on the other cheek. 'Don't ya fuckin tell me what ya fuckin
think, you brainless bitch,' she yelled, loosening her grip and pushing Margaret to the
floor.
The sudden furore resulted in consternation Viviane fell down and passed out;
Deborah broke down into tears and let out shrill cries. The blaring voice, the boisterous
noise prompted other doors in the corridor to open, to check, but were quickly shut back
as the other busy or frightened residents saw Pathak rushing down towards the end
of the passage followed by his flotilla of four.
What the hell is going on here?
This fuckin bitch needs a lesson, she needs to be shown her place. Why dont you
guys give her some? Itll help taming the other two too. Hina walked away from the
centre of the scene and slammed the door shut.
The men looked at Pathak for consent, and he nodded without wasting a minute. The
four stooges instantaneously collected Margaret from the floor, threw her on the bed as
Pathak stubbed the cigarette in the empty ashtray nearby. Then, he, in presence of the
men, Hina and the two striplings, moved towards Margaret, grasped her poncho and
violently tore off the front.
The time for being bold, for her friends, had ended. No, please no, Margaret
screamed and struggled to get past him.
The fingerprints of the two slaps rendered by Pathak were to remain on Margaret's
cheeks for the next two days. He grabbed her trousers and pulled them down as though
they were several sizes too large; the bra and cotton panties followed. Unashamedly, he
unzipped his jeans and took out his phallus. As if on cue, Patel walked to the side of the
bed and held Margarets legs apart. If Pathak hadnt put his big hand over Margarets
mouth, the scream, when he shoved himself into her, would have, indeed, woken up a
corpse.

Deborah and Viviane, tears in eyes but silent with trepidation, watched the monster
tear their friend.
Margaret was befuddled to the point of unbelieving; unbelieving all this was
happening. Happening to her? It was definitely a nightmare, it will soon get over she
kept telling herself, pinching herself, pressing her lips hard to endure the pain. Why,
then, wasnt she waking up? She didnt want this dour nightmare to carry on. Little did
she apprehend that this horrendous ordeal wasnt getting over. Not anytime soon. Not
ever.
Five minutes later, Pathak withdrew. Shes shit hot, guys. Take her. Patel got on top
of her and after him Om, Nripesh and check-shirt.
Even scavenging pimps had a pecking order. Pathak mounted Margaret again.
You will be a free fuck for every visitor tonight. If you do anything stupid, you will
live to regret it, he dared Margaret, then looked at the other two. And you two
watch her getting fucked. He zipped up and turned to Hina, Give these commies a razor
to shave their fucking twats. I dont want spider's legs straying out of their underwear.
And get them some scanties too. He walked out with his flunkies.
'Did you follow what Pathak bhai said? The three girls nodded in acquiescence.
And from now on, call me madam.' Hina smiled before they heard the door slam and
locked from the outside. She was gone too.
Five cash-rich, disgusting, foul-smelling, rutting men came into the room through the
night. Deborah and Viviane witnessed hirsute arses plunging into their unfortunate,
compliant friend, the men squeezing her breasts, pinning her down. All tricks, in their
drunken state, twaddled something unintelligible when they found the other girls
watching them shag Margaret.
Did they want to shag the other two? Would they come for them later? Were they
next? Even the inexplicable, inaudible questions in mens expressions frightened them.
Fear sired angst, but it was impotent anger, the one that could only frustrate.
Margaret was broken by the morning. She had no words, no tears left. When she
tried getting up, it was an insurmountable chore to drag her bruised, lifeless body. The
other two were woeful by the wretched experience they had gained second-hand. An
incessant bad dream. They had to wake up. Had to get away. Somehow. Alas, it was the
first of many surreal nights, the first of every night for the rest of their lives.

SEVEN
2007
Sheesh Mahal, a 1950s construction in which Rita resided, was on St Andrews Road in
Bandra. To offset the ascent of the posh Pali Hill, uneven pillars, that made it appear like
a crouching dog, supported it. The exterior appeared derelict, like many other antiquated
buildings in Mumbai that had endured the taxing weather and the unforgiving tropical
monsoons for over half a century. The interiors of most of the apartments, however, were
totally in disagreement with the faade. The paan-wallahs and chai stalls in the
neighbourhood notwithstanding, it was one of the most desired, most affluent suburbs of
Mumbai. Some of the occupants had hired interior designers to do up their apartments.
Rita had bought a fourth floor 2BHK apartment a Two-Bedroom-Hall-Kitchen
(irrespective of the minuscule living space it offered, it was referred to as a Hall by
Mumbai estate agents) almost five years back; she had had to relinquish two of her
ancestral properties in Goa in lieu. Unlike some, she had self-decorated the place in
minimalist fashion. Plain and sparse. The only striking feature being that she had got one
of the longer walls of the rectangular living room, the Hall, painted in sea blue, which
made it stand out from the other three walls that were in ivory. She had been in this
apartment for a few months and had started feeling at home in Mumbai. It was a
comfortable place. She kept most of the hall seating on the floor with lots of cushions
thrown around to give it a cosy look.
Rita had a predilection for Jim Beam a taste she had inherited from her father
who was a guzzler: he drank for the taste, he said. But he drank when he was happy, he
drank when he was sad, he drank in company, he drank when he was lonely. He drank
when he had a reason; he drank when he couldn't find one. However, he was always in
control, not an alcoholic. With his bar overflowing, he had little idea when Rita had
nicked her first sip. And then regular sips. Jim became a soulmate; unusual for a woman
in India to indulge in whiskey, but then she was atypical in many other ways. How many
women DCPs did they have in the Indian police force? She had also retained her father's
old turntable and vinyls, and paperbacks, mostly crime fiction, which she inherited from
her mother. Some she had read, but most of them waited to be read some day. Karan,
besides being a lover, had been a great friend till the American bug bit him. Happy
memories. And she wanted them to stay that way.
Though there was a touch of sadness in her happiness, at times, she knew the feeling
would pass. Contrary to her faade of a tough cop, she was, at heart, a woman. Not even
a tomboy. A woman who still had teddies on her bed, wore skirts and dresses when she
socialised, though not on the job. Trousers, jeans were her ensembles at work. They

were easy to manage and besides, being one of the few women at Crawford Market, she
wanted to downplay the woman card.
You couldn't see the sea from Rita's apartment, but you could get a whiff of the salt in
the atmosphere, and you could hear the waves crash sometimes. Like they did this
morning, so loudly as though the sea was thirsty, wailing for a drink. The breeze, besides
providing the chill through the window left ajar, was also blowing the chimes. The
jangling woke her up and she looked at the bedside clock. It was half past five. She
grabbed the pillow and snuggled between the sheets to catch a few more hours of sleep,
but it wasn't to be. The telephone ring was hardly avoidable. Ex-directory phone buzzing
at this hour. Ominous. She knew it.
It was Vikram. Already at the scene of crime. Another homicide. Male. At ITC
Grand Maratha Sheraton.
Rita groggily peeked at the bedside clock to see the time again. It was 5:33.
Dragging herself out of the bed, she wrapped herself in a gown, put on the cafetiere and
walked straight into the shower. The coffee was brewed to perfection by the time she
was out. She pressed a cupful and poured it into her thermos glass; she preferred it hot to
the last drop. She put on denims and a white shirt, and packed a spare shirt and lingerie
in her bag. Who knew when one might need a change? This was going to be another long
day. Grabbing a pale-blue corduroy jacket to cover the holster under her left arm, she
looked at the clock: 5:48. She was getting good at it. She rushed out of the building,
unlocked her Gypsy and throwing the switched-off rotating red beacon on the hood
civilly drove out of the parking lot. Once out of the residential area, she switched on the
flashing light and siren. As she got on to the Western Express Highway, she put the
vehicle into second gear and floored the pedal. The wheels screeched once and then she
took off, leaving everything else behind her. The traffic at dawn was minimal.
The place was crawling with cops. And, ah, the piranhas of media, too, had arrived,
but were made to crowd behind the yellow ribbons the police had tied to cordon off the
area. Rita beckoned a constable, gave him the keys of her Gypsy to park and instructed
him to call her driver to report at the hotel this morning.
'This is the second murder in the last four days, DCP Ferreira,' someone called aloud
from a distance. The male voice came from the direction where the journalists were
parked. She could hear the cameras going. What were they clicking? Pictures of her ass?
The second murder was exactly in the same vein of Lele's murder at Versova a couple of
days prior. Only this time, the murderer had been a great deal more aggressive, slitting
the prey from the groin till the navel. The entrails showed. Rita could see the punctured
large intestine from quite a distance. Blood, almost blackened, had coagulated.
Gruesome. Rita was impressed that none of those present seemed nauseated. Police
officers were expected to have a button to spray local anaesthetic on themselves to put
out the pain and grief when attending to such ghastly scenes of crime. As she put on the
surgical gloves, she counted her blessings for not having eaten anything this morning, or
she would have surely retched.
'Samir Suri, age 35. Dead for more than seven, maybe eight, hours now. Arrived on a

delayed Indian Airlines flight from New Delhi last night. Survived by his wife and a
three- month-old daughter. They have been informed. His wife is booked on the seventhirty flight from Delhi,' Vikram sheepishly recited Samir's resume.
'I can see that the Forensics have almost scanned the room, so we'll know if the
bastard has left any evidence this time.' Rita looked around.
'One empty tumbler, six empty bottles of miniature Chivas, and as many bottles of
soda. The Forensics think the remaining contents of his drink were emptied in the sink.
They could smell the alcohol. In any case, they have unscrewed the tubes under the sink
and the tub where, presumably, the murderer washed this time and taken them to
the lab.'
'Same guy?' It was a fluid question Rita knew. Which guy?
'The MO is identical, ma'am. He has cut the body deeper and slit a larger surface
area though. And also removed the penis from the body. They've turned the room upside
down, but cannot find it, so it's safe to assume he's taken the penis with him.'
'Motherfucker,' Rita murmured softly, but well within Vikram's earshot. She didn't
care. Her mind had segued into another direction. Didn't the wounds in the groin
symbolise castration, emasculation? There was a fraught silence for some time, the one
that pierces the ears with fear.
'The search team found a lipstick under the bed. But, it could well be nothing. It
could belong to any guest who stayed in the room, in the past, who inadvertently dropped
it and it might have rolled beneath the bed. According to the management here, the beds
are made regularly, but the complete vacuuming of the carpets, where they move the bed,
just happens on Sundays. Hence, if it was dropped any earlier than...' Vikram ran through
the days in his brain; it was only Tuesday, '...a couple of days it should have definitely
been removed. I've asked for the guest list for this room for the previous two nights.
We'll check with everyone who stayed here if they lost a lipstick.'
Rita did not respond. Seconds lazily dragged, as she stood spellbound.
'He, Samir Suri, was to meet the EA to the CM today morning for breakfast, at the
hotel. We've sent a message to CM's office and I am very sure the Commissioner would
know about this before we get to office.'
'Thanks for that update. I'll need to call Mr Joshi immediately.' Vikram nodded, said
nothing.
'I am sure the hotel has CCTVs. Ask them for all recordings of last night, and all
recordings of the preceding week. Actually, all the way back till they overwrite them,
ask them to hand over everything they have. I don't expect someone this clever who
obliterates all evidence so earnestly to walk into a hotel without due preparation and
kill without having explored ways of getting away. He would have surely recceed the
place.'
Vikram nodded instructions on his yellow pad.
'Reconstruct Samir's movements from the time he first planned this trip to Mumbai.
All telephone records, anyone visiting his office, everything...we need a lead. I want to
know every little detail about this man. All past girlfriends, all friends, business

associates and any business rivalries. Everyone who knew about his visit to Mumbai, I
want a report on each one of them. Check all alibis, place plainclothes officers around
their houses, record and report movements. If Delhi police suspects anyone of having a
motive, however remote, to finish this guy, we need to know ASAP. Anyone hesitates in
obliging, we should be informed rightaway.'
'Yes ma'am.' Vikram scribbled again. 'I glanced through the call lists on his mobile
phone before they took it away along with all his other personal effects to check for any
latent prints. He had received two calls from the time he landed in Mumbai. Both from
an unknown number. The first call lasted...' Vikram consulted his notes, 'one minute
forty-seven seconds, and the second one merely thirty-one seconds'
'The second call, what time was this second call received?' Vikram looked at the pad
again. 'At 9:57 last night.'
Rita scanned her watch and did the maths. 'It's past six now. If Samir died more than
seven hours ago, it should be between 10 and 11 last night. So, this call could, in fact,
have been minutes before the killer arrived in this room...and Samir, we assume, was
waiting for the visitor and opened the door, as there are no signs of struggle. You see
where I'm heading with this, Vikram?'
'It appears like watching the replay of Adit Lele's murder.'
'Yes. The killer calls from an international or unknown number both untraceable;
he is known to the victims, who provide him access.'
'But, if Samir was expecting the killer, why was he naked in bed?'
'Was he gay?'
'He was a married man.'
'Bi?'
Vikram didnt say anything.
'You know, that is what worries me too. Both men were naked like they were waiting
for a fuck.' Rita was candid in her expression. Not sex, not woman. Fuck. 'Though
everything else points out it should be a male: the MO, the forensic report from Lele's
murder told us that the only other person who could have been with Lele in the hours
immediately preceding or following his death was a male. In any case, if I had a gun, I
could make anyone do anything I wanted, including making them strip. Dont you think?'
Vikram reflected on the surmise and nodded. 'What about the lipstick they found
under the bed?'
'I guess we'll have to wait till we get the list of all previous guests in this room from
the hotel authorities and check each one of them.'
'Sure ma'am.'
'We'll get him, he has to leave some trace behind.'
Well said Rita, wasn't it Edmond Locard's theory that professed, "everywhere you
go, you take something with you, and you leave something behind?" That every contact
left a trace? Then what about so many unresolved crimes around the world? If all killers
left evidence behind, what was the hitch? Oh, and by the by, who was Jack the Ripper?
Traces,

Edmond and Rita, could be annihilated; they were always eradicable. The room was
still neat. It had been cleaned up well. Purged. If there had been a struggle between the
murderer and Samir, the room showed no signs. Evidence? No chance.
An even larger horde of news-seekers had gathered in the last forty minutes. Some
morsels of the gossip had surely been fed to the reporters; having tasted blood, more
vultures had flocked in. Bigger names. Larger cameras. Television crews adjusted their
lenses. Two identical murders in four days. It surely suggested a potential to make big
news. Heck, this could make a money-spinning chronicle.
As Rita and Vikram came out of the hotel, Rita noticed a bleary-eyed Anita Raizada.
She might have apologised to Jatin, and may have befriended the young inspector who
let his brain slip between his legs for an evening, but Rita was careful not to
acknowledge her presence. She had no desire, or patience, to get entangled with the
press at this point. Surely, the media would be informed, but later. Not now. The barrage
started nevertheless.
Is it true, DCP Ferreira, that Adit Lele and Samir Suri were murdered by the
same person?
Why arent the police arresting the killer?
'You tell me where he is and I'll go and arrest him right away,' Rita retorted, gave a
social smile and briskly walked to her Gypsy that had been brought to the portico by a
uniformed PC. Vikram opened the door for her, then ran around and took the driving seat.
They could hear the loud questions through the rolled-up windows as they drove out of
the exit.
----------------------------------... I Love you Rachu ...
Dear Frnds pls spread this msg until its reach to my rachu
I thinks see knows my name
Book Downloaded from: EBOOK4IN.BLOGSPOT.COM

EIGHT
2007
Research was tedious work. No one joined the Crime Squad in police to go through
realms of data, but someone had to. Collecting slices of information wasn't the most
motivating task since one needed to glean thousands to get one profitable lead, and only
if one was lucky.
Grunge, it was called in police circles. Inspector Jatin Singh, the lowest ranking of
the three detectives on the case, until now, was afforded the grand opportunity to lead the
research for the two murders.
On instructions from Rita, the Ops Room was relocated to a larger chamber to
accommodate more officers. The case required more hands; the three detectives couldnt
even run down all alibis. Eleven new members were recruited to the task force: one
Senior Inspector, two Inspectors, two Sub-Inspectors and six police constables. In
keeping with the police procedures, the PCs and the uniformed officers would not be
included in general briefing sessions, but they would get instructions from their
respective team leaders. Only share what is absolutely necessary was the rubric: more
the number of people that know details, the higher the risk of leaks. Why take a chance?
The place was bustling with unrestrained energy. The room, a large hall with a high
ceiling and windows overlooking the bona fide Crawford Market, had an outsized
conference table with seating for twelve, and a dozen computer terminals live to provide
updated data, info or communications. There was a little podium in the corner and four
additional computer terminals in the walls, which could be accessed while standing,
should there be a need for additional hands. All five new police officers were ready to
launch. What? All tongues stopped wagging; the room sank into silence the moment Rita
walked in. It was apparent that this was no longer a standard murder investigation.
Mumbai, or perhaps India, was waking up to a crime that had primarily existed in the
West. Or fiction. A serial killer.
'I don't think I need to explain how nerve-wracking this case is,' Rita opened her
briefing standing at the head of the table. She beckoned all to take their seats. Jatin had
already arranged for the projector, and the scene of crime slides played behind her for
all present to observe. 'Weve had two murders in the last four days as all of you know
by now, committed undoubtedly by the same killer.' She stopped and looked at the
projection. Jatin played the two close-up frontal shots taken of the groins of Adit Lele
and Samir Suri in quick succession; then, he stopped on each picture for ample time for
the officers to absorb the juxtaposition. The resemblance was remarkable. Rita waited
till most stopped looking at the slides and made notes on their pads or computers. 'I'm

reasonably confident the same artiste has done both these slayings. I have spoken to the
pathology department to emphasise the urgency. They've agreed to start the autopsy in an
hour's time.' She glanced at the clock behind her: 11:53 a.m. 'Senior Inspector Nene, you
may leave now for the autopsy suite. I'd like you to attend the post-mortem first hand,
and return with all reports as soon as it's over. If there's anything important, please call.'
Senior Inspector Rajesh Nene, a local from Mumbai, was one of the most
experienced inspectors in the crime branch. Nene was forty-seven years young. He had
forgone all promotions to stay in Mumbai, and as such knew all the trenches, the nuts and
bolts of Mumbai. A full, curly, black-dyed mane sat on top of his five feet eleven frame
that was rigidly straight. Like some other sceptics in the department, he wasn't amused
when Rita took over as the Unit Head, but like most he had stomached the matriarch.
With an informal gesture of a salute, to Rita and the rest, he marched out of the Ops
Room.
The tickets were booked. Two new members of the task force were instructed to leave
for New Delhi by the afternoon flight to assist and supervise Delhi Police in its efforts to
unravel everything about Samir Suri. Any leads would be helpful.
'We need to agree on exactly how much detail we are going to release to the media.'
Rita spelt out to the rest of them present: Vikram, Jatin, and two sub-inspectors Steven
D'Souza and Milind Anand. 'We don't want mayhem, which it would certainly result in if
we release the scene of crime photographs. And, we also run the risk of loonies calling
up to confess to the murders if we provide more details than required at this stage.'
Nods. Silence. Agreement.
'I have updated Mr Joshi and he reckons we should continue the search without
causing any disruption in the city, which I think is the right approach. We are responsible
for their security, and we should ensure there is no panic.'
Nods again.
More tasks were allocated. Jatin, relieved of research, was to liaise with the
Forensics; Steven was allocated to keep abreast of developments in Juhu Police
overlooking the murder at ITC Grand Maratha, and also to closely co-ordinate with the
info still being collected from the first murder at Versova; Milind was in charge of the
Ops Room, all coordination, all messages, and to maintain a chronology of investigation
and all further research.
Rinika, Samir Suri's widow, arrived at the Police Station at noon. She had been rushed
from the airport to the mortuary for identification of the body before being driven to
Juhu. Vikram had been intimated of the timing and hence, had arrived shortly afterwards.
There were a few news reporters, but it wasn't anything compared to what Vikram has
seen at the hotel in the morning. The SHO introduced Rinika and Vikram before leaving
the room.
Dishevelled and tearful, Rinika was a young and petite woman. One would have had
to stretch the word pretty very cruelly to call her that, but she was well maintained.
Straight black hair, wide eyes which were, presently, wet like the Mumbai monsoon.

Vikram guessed she would be in her late twenties before he checked the papers. Twentyeight. Not bad.
'I am extremely sorry for your loss, Mrs Suri,' he said politely. 'Hmm...' Rinika
wanted to say something but broke down yet again. 'Should I get you something? Tea,
coffee?'
'Water would be fine.'
Vikram walked out of the room and asked a PC to get some water and tea.
'As I was saying,' Vikram began after an appropriate pause when Rinika looked
slightly composed. 'I can understand your loss Mrs Suri, and I can see how you feel, but
we need to ask some questions.'
'Now...?'
'In any investigation Mrs Suri, the first thirty-six hours are considered the most
crucial, so if youre ready...' Vikram was prepared with his omnipresent notebook.
Rinika nodded.
'Do you know anyone who would have wanted Mr Suri killed?' Silence. Tears.
Headshake. No.
'Anyone who would gain anything by his death?'
'No.'
'How long had you two been married?'
'Three years, but we've known each other for five.'
'Any kids?' Vikram knew the answer, but he gathered some non-murder conversation
might be conducive.
'One daughter. We just had a baby three months back. He was so excited, we made
plans. He had been very busy these past few months...involved in the public listing of the
company he worked for. This was the final phase, he had promised, we would take a
break after this but she mumbled lost in a world of her own, and appeared on the
brink of breaking down again when the tea arrived. She hadn't asked for the tea but the
aroma of roadside tea got her. Thank Lord. Questioning recently bereaved close ones
was regarded as the second worst task a police officer performed; the first one was to
inform them about the tragedy and watch first the disbelief, followed by acceptance
of the tragedy, before losing emotional control. The triptych of emotions remained
unchanged, only the degree of spectacle varied. Vikram watched Rinika captivated by
the tea. Anything to distract from the loss, he surmised.
The doctrine of wife, partner, girlfriend, boyfriend as first or prime suspect was
obviously betraying here. However hard he tried, Vikram couldn't envisage this
domesticated housewife, who had a three-month-old child, killing the father of her
daughter in such cold blood. He waited till she finished her tea. 'Mrs Suri, was your
husband seeing another woman?'
'No way.'
'Please reflect on the question, Mrs Suri. I am not saying he definitely had an
extramarital affair, but did you ever, even for a minute, think about such a thing?
'Not at all. He was a doting husband, he didn't as much as look at other women,

forget having any affair. Please don't malign Samir...' Rinika's voice faded, as she took
out another tissue from her handbag. The optical sprinklers looked ready for another
spray.
'We need to be sure of everything, Mrs Suri.'
This was proving to be futile. This woman could not be a suspect Vikram reasoned
and closed his yellow pad.
'When can I have Samir back?' She was mindful of not calling it a body yet. Given
the circumstances, denial was a fairly common occurrence. Deliberate non-acceptance
of facts.
'Only a couple of days, you don't have to stay in Mumbai any more than you want to.'
Commissioner of Mumbai Police Sanjay Saxena Sexy, as he was referred to in
absentia was a politician in uniform. He looked more like a suave villain from some
flick of the Black & White era than a policeman. Tall. Lean. Salt and pepper more
salt than pepper hair. A chain smoker, he always had a cigarette between his fingers
or fumes rising from the ashtray. Forever in mufti, and at all times dressed like he was to
leave for an appointment with the Prime Minister in the next ten minutes. He wasn't the
sharpest tool in Crawford Market. But he was ambitious and he did better than others.
Promotions came in time. And one couldn't undermine his efforts to please those above
him in the hierarchy and other significant people in the political world. Though he was
exceedingly well entrenched in golf, he had initially only taken up the sport because
influential people favoured it. He was well connected, they said. A Doon School
product, he had all the right ingredients to be the face of Mumbai Police. His large office
too was a display of his political ambitions. Pictures with the Who's Who of political,
film and sporting worlds adorned the walls. The awards and accolades embellished the
space. Some men merely attracted fortune; Sexy was more than that he was a
Neodymium magnet.
The Executive Assistant to the Chief Minister, who was supposed to meet Samir
Suri, must have lost a significant amount in kickbacks considering the big fuss he kicked
up. Vinay Joshi and Rita were urgently called to the Commissioners Office for an
update.
'I've been indomitably following the reports on the two recent murders in Mumbai.'
Sexy leaned back in his throne, looked at the cigarette in his hand; the tableau only
lacked a cognac snifter. Grapevine was that Sexy's grammar teacher, at school, had
worked hard on his adjectives, adverbs and lexicon, which he used gratuitously and
indomitably.
'We're on the case, DCP Ferreira is in charge.' Joshi passed the baton.
'Yes sir. The team is working 24/7 on this one. We've increased the task force to 14,
including me, only this morning after the second murder '
'Is there any intrinsic connection between these two murders?'
'They were both murdered in an identical manner sir.' Rita judging Sexy hadn't
been through the case files though he had apparently said he had gave a succinct
account.

'Have we concretised the motive?'


Concretised? Was that even a word? Must have been derived from concrete, Rita
quickly worked out and only then Sexys question annoyed her. You aren't listening
Commissioner, she wanted to bang her fist on the table. Forget pinning down the motive,
we don't even have a plausible one as yet. 'That's the worrying part, sir. Up till now we
haven't been able to figure out any motive for the two murders.'
'No one gets murdered without a reason, no one murders without a reason. Surely,
there has to be a compelling motive, some persuasive grounds to kill not one, but two
men.'
Well said Sexy, well said.
'Two identical murders in such a short span without apparent motive make me think it
could be a serial killer,' Joshi butted in.
'That is so Kafkaesque.' Sexy could have said unrealistic, but Kafkaesque
demonstrated his lexicon. Pompous prick. 'Serial killer is a western concept, a
developed world's disease, we don't have serial killers in this country.'
'I would like to differ sir. From Thug Behram, who was sentenced to death for 931
murders in 1840, to the Stoneman in recent times, we've had our own share of serial
killers,' Rita slipped in politely.
Sexy was clearly not amused. Brought up in an ossified bureaucracy, he didn't like
being tutored by someone several ranks junior to him. He had never done that when he
was junior. What did this girl know? 'I wouldn't take more of your precious time, DCP
Ferreira. Keep on top of the case and keep Mr Joshi updated at all times.' He smiled,
and looked at the door. It was obvious the meeting was over. At least for Rita. A salute
and she tiptoed out of the king's suite.
Sexy waited for the door to close. If his eyes had feet, they would have followed
Rita out of the room to check if she wasn't standing outside to listen to what he had to say
next. But he was confident she wouldn't dare.
'Mr Joshi, are you utterly certain DCP Rita can cope with this kind of a grotesque
double-murder investigation? We can easily give her some undemanding posting like
traffic.'
'Oh no, no, no, sir. She is very competent and loves challenges. She's done homicide
cases in Pune.'
The Commissioner looked unconvinced, but did not insist. 'You should give the press
a briefing tomorrow. And keep my office appraised of any new breakthrough.
Yes sir.
Inspectors Akhil Mathur and Ravi Mathur the two envoys from Crime Branch,
Mumbai arrived at Nehru Place in New Delhi five minutes before 5 p.m. Despite the
surname, the two weren't related. In fact, they couldn't have been more dissimilar. One
was short, the other was tall, one was bald, the other was not; one was from the south of
the country, the other from the north. Akhil was known as takla (bald) Mathur; Ravi was
called chota (short) Mathur. So much for political correctness in India: diversity was
enjoyment, even for the diverse, it was not muted to sound appropriate.

The Delhi Police had instructed Samir Suri's office to wait for the two detectives
from Mumbai. Mathur & Mathur went around questioning the key people in the
workplace, but nothing seemed out of keeping. Samir's co-workers largely agreed on
their opinions regarding the guy. Most were convinced he was a role model, a leader
and a family man. A few disagreed two women to be precise. One was a junior girl
in the sales department who broke down telling her woeful tale of how Samir had
harassed her, threatened to ruin her career till she agreed to sleep with him. The
agreement had been for one night, but Samir kept coming back under various pretexts.
The second girl, the receptionist, didn't come forward till someone disclosed the
information of her trysts with Samir to takla Mathur. When questioned, she agreed,
though she admitted she hadn't required any coercion to sleep with the guy. Although
neither of these two women had travelled to Mumbai, their mobile phones were scanned,
and the mobile companies contacted, to check if either had called someone in Mumbai to
get rid of Samir. Nada.
Samir's desk phone still had the list of last ten numbers dialled. Not a single call
made to any Mumbai number. Strange, someone in Mumbai knew Samir was travelling
to Mumbai. All ten numbers were redialled, checked and eliminated from the enquiry.
Delhi Police had acquired the entire telephone list from telephone exchange, but it was
worthless. As Samir's office phones had a PBX, it was impossible to identify who made
which call. With over 120 people working in the same premises, it would be
unworkable. Mathur & Mathur requested Delhi Police to filter the lists and send all
Mumbai telephone numbers to the crime squad as soon as prudent. Samir's office was
thoroughly searched. Nothing.
The disreputable Delhi Police who, it was said, could make a corpse confess and
a dead man dance couldnt bring in a single suspect. They had procured a search
warrant and rummaged Samir's house in Vasant Kunj. Still no lead.
Rita got the reports from Delhi, transcript of Vikrams interview with the deceaseds
widow, initial tidings from S/I Nene from the autopsy suite and Jatin's brief preliminary
synopsis from forensic laboratory the detailed reports were to follow. The murders
of Lele and Suri, and hence the reports, mimicked each other. She looked at the clock
and saw that it was close to midnight. The day had literally flown away. She paged her
driver to bring the car around from the parking. It was well past midnight when she
arrived at her Sheesh Mahal. It had been an extraordinarily long day that had started at
five in the morning and lasted nineteen hours.
As she got out of the lift car, she was, she realised, extremely tired. Exhausted.
Exhaustion didnt necessarily mean satisfaction. On the contrary, the feeling of
exhaustion was a sign of dissatisfaction; when she was satisfied, she was seldom
exhausted, she knew.
Jim looked at her, begging to be picked. Not tonight Jim, Im drained.

NINE
2007
The phone call could have waited till Rita got to office, but who could blame Vikram for
excess adrenaline since he had received intelligence from Juhu Police a couple of hours
before. On his part he had tried hard to fight the impulse of calling his boss the minute he
got the news, which was quarter past four in the morning. Any more waiting was proving
to be an exceedingly uphill task that threatened his sanity.
Rita peeked at the bedside clock. 6:35. This better be good.
'Good morning ma'am.' Vikram sounded excited, like a schoolboy who wanted to
share his marks sheet with his mum.
Vikram at this hour could mean one of the two discoveries: another corpse or the
killer. Or at least a lead. But the tone wasn't grave enough for either.
'Good morning Vikram,' Rita tongued, rubbing her eyes and mentally working out that
she'd had five hours of wholesome sleep. The body felt so much better than the night
before.
'Sorry to bother you so early, but I thought you'd like to hear this one. Juhu police got
the guest list of all previous guests who had stayed in the hotel room that Samir Suri had
checked in since the deep-cleaning over the weekend. The police have questioned the
two guests, both males. Both were single occupants, and have confirmed, beyond any
doubt, that they did not carry any lipstick into the room. Nor did they have any women
visiting them who could have dropped the same. So, our killer goofed up on this
occasion.'
'Any lead from the Forensics? Did they find any prints on the lipstick or anything
else?'
'No ma'am, nothing whatsoever. Everything has been wiped clean.'
'Wiped clean,' Rita repeated. 'Including the lipstick?'
'Including the lipstick.'
'Not having enough prints, or too many, or smudged ones, for identification is one
thing, but prints having been wiped off is a different story. Can you imagine our perp
inadvertently dropped the lipstick after erasing all evidence?
'Yes. I mean no...' Vikram figured his yes, in fact, implied that he could imagine.
'Something tells me it's not accidental. It doesn't seem like miscue, it's deliberate. Our
killer is hell-bent on hoodwinking us, wants us to believe it's a woman.'
'Why would anyone do that?'
'Don't know. Can't think of anything concrete at the moment, but the tableau both

the victims naked in bed as though they were waiting for a fuck, both mercilessly gashed
in the groin, and then this premeditated slip-up. Doesn't sound right. As I said, I can't put
my finger on it though. Any results from the hotel's CCTV?'
'The hotel doesn't have many; the cameras are only in the bars and the car park, and
Samir Suri did not go near either and nothing caught on camera seemed suspicious or
loitering.'
Both were silent. Rita racked her brain on how to move the case forward; Vikram
waited for further instructions.
'Any results from the pipes that the forensic team took from the bathroom in the
hotel?' Rita could hear Vikram sifting through papers.
'No. Not even any skin residue like last time. No hair, no fluid, nothing.'
'He plans ahead, gives himself enough time to obliterate any evidence after the
act...but why is he doing it?'
Vikram responded with silence.
'Vikram, I am quite convinced it's the same killer now. Are you?'
'A hundred per cent ma'am.'
'Then there has to be some connection between the two victims, irrespective of the
fact that they resided in different cities, had different lifestyles, different socioeconomic- demographic-fuck-whatever. Get someone to check the backgrounds
thoroughly. Did they know each other, share any common interest or hobby? Did they
ever holiday at the same destination, take the same flight, attend the same exhibition,
show, anything? Did they ever use the same hawala broker or did Lele ever broker a
hawala transaction for Samir Suri?'
Rita could picture Vikram scribbling copiously. The case had shown little progress
so far, and she knew what she was asking for would burn innumerable man-hours and
might prove to be utterly useless. But everything else done hitherto had been equally
inconsequential, unprofitable. When it was murder, even minor misses had the potential
to get blown out of proportion. History could account for a litany of such dissected cases
having led to ruined careers. Her instincts warned her of the consequences of ignoring
trivial, even futile, clues; some ombudsman might come knocking doors later; who
knew? How did one determine inconsequential clues from real ones in any case? Gut
feel? The characteristic "yes ma'am" from the other end suggested the end of jotting.
'Please ask the team to contact me on phone. I shall be a bit late to office today,' Rita
informed before disengaging. She poured water in the cafetiere and switched on her
laptop. She recognised there was a dearth of intelligence available on serial killers in
the department. Her department. In living memory, the last time Mumbai Police had ever
apprehended a serial killer was, probably, never. There was no one in the current flock
to look to for advice.
Everything from now on would have to be theory then. Thank the Lord for Google.
The search "serial killers" generated over 7.5 million results, more pages than she
could read in a lifetime. There was so much material available on the web that one
could do a doctorate thesis on serial killers without stepping out of the house. Ted

Bundy. Andrei Chikatilo. Javed Iqbal. Fred West. Harold Shipman. Albert DeSalvo The Boston Strangler. Almost every country had a listing of serial killers. Including
India, China Hong Kong and Japan. Even Pakistan. How did that prat Sexy proclaim that
serial killers were a disease of the West? Smart arse.
Rita read through the top ten killers, their crimes, their MO, what gave them away,
how they were arrested. It wasn't news to her that a serial killer's crimes were not
necessarily short-lived. On the contrary, they could be long drawn out with, sometimes
months between loathsome dispatches. And that they generally, as a rule, plotted and
acted alone, which made it virtually impossible for snitches to sniff them out; since they
seldom exchanged information or ideas, there wasn't an opportunity for a leak. Lone
wolves were acknowledged to be the most dangerous. She was convinced that the next
kill was impending, almost definite.
But when?
And who would be the next victim? Rita closed the web window taking in that it was
turning into an endless drill. Plus the coffee was long over; only the dregs remained in
the cup. She looked at the time on the laptop. Ten past nine. She switched off the
computer, turned on the cafetiere once again and called the Ops Room. No response.
Worrying. Did the team not realise the seriousness and urgency? Exasperated after trying
a few times, she called Jatin on his mobile.
'Where are you?'
'Good morning ma'am. We are in the Ops Room, Inspectors Milind Anand, Rajesh
Nene and I. We're allocating the tasks Vikram gave us following your instructions this
morning.'
'Why is no one taking the call?'
'Where?'
'In the Ops Room?'
Jatin picked up the landline. 'Shit, it's dead. Sorry, we've got so used to the mobiles
ma'am, no one bothered to check.'
'Ah, OK...make a complaint to the telephone department and ask them to ensure its
fixed today that's the only listed phone in the room, what if someone wanted to call to
give us some info?' Yeah right! What's the frigging probability of that Rita, she could
hear her wits mutter even as she mouthed the words. 'I'll be there in an hour. None of you
need wait for me, carry on with the jobs. Ask everyone to keep in touch.' Rita
disconnected the line and paged her driver to be ready in twenty minutes.
Milind was about to leave the Ops Room when Rita arrived to find the walls plastered
with even more scene of crime photographs, forensic and autopsy reports, addresses,
maps, et al, of both the murder victims. The whiteboard was filled with key numbers,
contacts, messages, and other critical info that outlined the likeness in the two murders.
The arrangement denoted that everyone had now agreed that the two murders were the
same case file. Four hundred documented interviews in eight box files lay on the table.
Milind handed her the comprehensive manuscripts received so far, and also passed on
the message that Mr Joshi wanted to see Rita in his office at eleven.

Fortunately, Vikram had summarised both the extensive reports into a single sheet
highlighting the salient points:
Primary crime scene: body wasn't transported from elsewhere.
Cause of death: Class IV Haemorrhage leading to loss of over 50% of circulating
blood volume.
Incisions by saw-like knife. Four inches deep lacerations: vivisection victim was
dead before stabbing. to Suri.
Trichloroacetaldehyde. Same toxic chemical that was found in Lele's blood was
given
Bullet: 9x19 calibre fired post-mortem at close enough range to singe the skin around on
forehead.
Weapon used: Glock 26. Only one slug fired.
The economical killer never wasted more than a bullet per corpse. Actually, he
didn't need to fire any.
No prints, no fluid, no hair, no fibre, no skin residue of the murderer found on site or
on the victim's body. All the diligent evidence gathering and analysis had got them
nothing.
Ditto. Rita could well have been reading Lele's report. There were two disparities
though. In Samir Suri's case, the killer had taken away the victims penis. And the
lipstick what was that left behind for? Did it even belong to the killer? It could well
be something the hotel cleaners had overlooked while vacuuming over the weekend.
At any rate, if Rita had any misgivings that they were two separate incidents before
seeing these reports, they were now decimated. Should she dispatch these to Sexy with a
note?
When Rita knocked and entered his office, his secretary was serving Jt Commissioner
Joshi tea in fine bone china, an indulgence of the Indian bureaucracy. He beckoned her to
sit down and with a jiggle of his head signalled the secretary to pour a cup for Rita. In
Indian bureaucracy, you didnt bother asking your subordinate if she wanted tea or not.
The host was entitled to take offence if the guest declined, and Rita was in no
disposition or position to antagonise Mr Joshi.
'How are we doing today, Rita?'
'Fine sir, thanks.'
Before Joshi could utter the next words, Rita ran through the condensed update for
the boss.
'Precisely why I called for you this morning. I have been reading the summary documents
of the two cases, and I have the same surmise as you, that we are looking for some
maniac serial killer here, forget whatever Mr Saxena said yesterday. I think he was only
trying to be optimistic, making an effort to comfort us in his own way.'
'Thank you sir.'

'For what?'
'For reinforcing my hypothesis.'
'In fact, I have some good news for you. I was speaking to an old friend of mine last
night he's a doctor, lives in London and we got talking about the recent murders.
He told me to get in touch with a young colleague of his...' Joshi looked at the Post-It at
his desk and read. 'Ash Mattel. Doctor Ash is a psychiatrist; he specialises in criminal
psychology, and helps Scotland Yard in criminal profiling. Particularly on cases where
they believe, like we do, the crime seems deviant and can be attributed to some kind of a
mental disorder.' Joshi gestured Rita to hold on to her questions and doubts and kept
going. 'Serial killers unquestionably fall into this category. As it turns out, Dr Mattel is
currently on a vacation in Mumbai and I spoke to him this morning. He was more than
willing to help, so I asked him to see you at six-thirty today evening. Pencil in some time
in your diary. I know this is busy time but this should be valuable, as we do not have any
such profilers in Mumbai.' He took a breath. 'Now, you can ask your questions.'
'This Doctor Ash, does he know anything about India?'
'The straight answer is yes. He was born in India and moved to the UK later.
However, even if he were not, human minds, despite the cultural, social, educational
differences, have comparable motivations. That's not to say they are alike, no two minds
are alike... but the delta of dissimilarity doesn't multiply simply because two people live
in separate continents. He should be able to provide some insight into criminal minds. In
any event, what do we lose? An hour, a few hours?'
'OK sir, I shall certainly make time.'
'You can come to my office. I'll introduce both of you and then, you can take it from
there.'
'Thank you sir. I really appreciate this.'
'One more thing. Mr Saxena had asked us to organise a press briefing, which my
secretary has already set up for 4 p.m. today. My apologies, but I have some other
important appointment to attend.'
Even if the press briefing were scheduled for 5 or 6 p.m., Joshi would have found
some justification to excuse himself. What could be more important than briefing the
press, Mr Joshi? Buying a gift for your wife? Rita smiled inwardly. Unless Sexy literally
whipped Joshi, under no condition would her boss ever chair the briefing.
'No worries sir, I'll take care.'
The telephone in the operations room was screaming like a neglected child that needed
coddling when Rita returned. The caller disconnected when she picked up. Poor guy,
whoever it was must have given up. Well, at least, the landline was working again.
Mathur & Mathur, having concluded their investigations in Delhi, had scanned
through the contact list on Samir Suri's telephone and tried to find if he and Adit Lele
shared a mutual contact. None. The local police had scrutinised all the Mumbai contacts
in Suris phonebook. They had also probed all the business contacts that had known

about Samir's arrival in town, checked and crosschecked alibis. Nothing seemed
inappropriate or suspicious. The looming press briefing, with no advancement in the
investigation, was daunting. Rajesh Nene, the kind soul, brought in vada-pau the
mouth-watering Mumbai burger for lunch for everyone.
The aroma of deep-fried potatoes in batter and red-chilly-garlic chutney, at least
momentarily, parked the grim thoughts as the team wolfed on the snack. Rita apprised the
team of her meeting with Mr Joshi, the upcoming press briefing and the visiting criminal
profiler.
Vikram regretfully explained how unproductive the search had been in the attempt to
find any relationship or anything in common between Lele and Suri. All eight of them
looked at one another like time had stopped; only the sound of the nineteenth century Seth
Thomas clock on the wall defied it. Rita recognised that the morale of the team was
descending, which wasn't a good sign.
'Don't give up guys, we will get him.' She smiled wanly. Even she realised her
motivational words sounded hollow like friable sandstone, and if anyone cared to
question how? she would be at a loss in supporting the optimism. The servility of
Indian bureaucracy stopped everyone from quizzing. 'Let us look at the case all over
again: the crime scenes, the scene of crime photography, the forensic reports, the
autopsies, and the other details. Sometimes when we get too close, we can lose focus,
just like a camera. Inspectors Rajesh and Milind, take a PC each with you and go back to
the crime scenes. Ferret about, look for anything. Inspector Mathur...' she turned to chota
Mathur: 'Take a constable and go to Lele's office.' She switched officers to search what
someone else had searched the first time around. Fresh eyes.
Rita walked back to her room imagining the life that the unfortunate Samir Suri
would never live: the dreams he would never realise, like the vacation his wife spoke
about, never see his child grow up, never see her first step, her first words, her first
sports day at school.
Maybe the couple had planned to give her a sibling. What could Samir have possibly
done so sinful to deserve the kind of death he received? Rita's brain edited her question
with a reluctant smile: what could anyone have done so vile as to deserve a death like
Adit Lele or Samir Suri? All the other files at her desk, she knew, would have to wait
till the pressing need of the hour had been attended to. Which, alas, didn't seem to be
happening anytime soon.
Homicide got priority over a club brawl. Or burglary. She made a coffee and sat
down to ponder over the day's events, to rummage around the outback corners of her
skull. No apparent motive suggested one of the axiomatic Ws wine, women, wealth,
vengeance; anyone with half a mind should have spelt vengeance with a "W". Jealousy?
Could it lead to cold-blooded murders like these? It normally sired rage and
manslaughter. Besides, how could one person be jealous of two men unknown to each
other? Conversely, Lele and Suri being strangers to each other did not conclusively
imply the killer couldn't have known them both. One didn't necessarily know all friends
of friends. Had she missed anything that could come back to haunt her later? Thoughts

straggled in her brain. Appeared, wandered, disappeared. The answer was beyond her
ken for now, at least.
A tsunami of reporters started arriving at Crawford Market from 3:45 p.m.; they were
ushered into the conference hall on the first floor. Cameras were focused, microphones
tested, ink in pens checked. DCP Rita Ferreira turned up with Jatin and takla Mathur at
five minutes past four when the crowd had started getting restive.
'At 4:20 a.m. yesterday morning, Mumbai Police Crime Branch was called in to
investigate a murder at ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton. The victim, Mr Samir Suri, had
only arrived in Mumbai the previous night on a business trip. We have a full team of
detectives and uniformed police officers working on the case and I can assure you we
will soon apprehend the murderer.' Rita opened the briefing and elaborated on the
investigation in Delhi and Mumbai to reassure the scribes that everything was under
control, but most didn't look convinced, which was unnerving. These women and men
had enough ink to push Mumbai to the edge if any one of them ran a story on serial
murders: "Serial killer on the loose in Mumbai" and the sale of diapers would hit the
roof.
DCP Ferreira, does the police know who killed Samir Suri? The barrage of
questions started.
'No. Not yet.'
Do you have a suspect? 'No comments.'
Is that a no?
Is there a link between the murder in Versova two days before Mr Suri's murder?
'No comments.'
Is that a yes then?
More questions ensued and Rita cautiously ignored or distracted them; some she
declined to comment on because the crime squad itself didn't have answers to, others she
circumvented as she was in no rush to report certain details. The throng of reporters
looked dismayed, their stories remained incomplete. Had they expected to meet the
killer in person at Crawford Market today? Under the guise of least disturbing, the
police released only a few photographs of Samir Suri that didn't show the true nature of
the felony. No photographs of Adit Lele's murder were passed on to the media; it didnt
require rocket science to spot the similarities. Some smart reporters reckoned the police
wasnt providing the complete truth, but they didn't have much choice. It was either this
or nothing. After two hours, the scrum started depleting. And though they left after
hushed whimpers, Rita knew the restive vultures weren't resting till they got their prey:
the complete story.
Fortunately, the shirt and lingerie Rita had packed in her bag the day before was still on
a hanger in her office. Unfortunately, Crawford Market, like many old buildings, was
built solely for men; the single ladies shower room in the whole building was a
testimony to that. Rita washed and put on the new lingerie and shirt. Holster in place, her
blue corduroy jacket covering it, she paced to Joshi's office.

It was 6:31.
The doctor sat opposite Joshi, with his back facing the door. 'DCP Ferreira, this is
Doctor '
'Ashwin Mittal, when the when did you become Ash Mattel?' Rita beamed an Irecognise-you smile, which was instantly reciprocated.
Ash Mattel was Mister Ugly personified. Bulky like a bull, dark-skinned, a receding
hairline, broad nostrils and pockmarks. He was as ugly now as he was a decade earlier,
Rita's photographic memory quickly rewound and played in Eastman colour. But his
style, his warm personality, his clothes and manners dared the unappealing looks God
had bestowed on him. Ash must have certainly practised hard to make all of it come
together so brilliantly, so naturally. Strangely, there was something attractive about him.
Ugly-manly-attractive?
'It is a small world. How have you been?' Ash got up to acknowledge and shake
hands. 'A thought had crossed my mind it could be you when I heard the name Rita
Ferreira. But, police service and you, I let it pass.'
'Male chauvinism prevented you from accepting that?'
'Oh no, no, no. I expected you to be a corporate high-flyer.'
'Wrong profiling then?'
'I wouldn't say that. Both careers entail leading lots of men.' Copacetic response,
Mr-Fucking-Smooth.
'You two know each other?' asked Joshi, who suddenly felt like an intruder.
'We went to college together, sir. Ashwin, Ash left college after first year. All anyone
knew was that he had got admission into some college in London.'
'Cambridge.'
'That I know now.' Rita smiled.
'Good. Makes my life simple,' Joshi intervened. 'I have outlined the case to Dr
Mattel... you can provide him all the details. Tea, anyone?'
Neither was interested.
'Thank you sir, Rita said and looked at Ash. 'Should we go to my room?'
'Sure.' Ash got up. 'Have a good evening Mr Joshi.'

TEN
2007
'So, how has it been?' Ash asked again as Rita steered him out of Joshi's office. The
contentment on Joshi's face would have been apparent even to an orangutan with Rita
having known Ash from college days, it was one less chore for him; Rita could decide if
a criminal profiler could be of any assistance here.
'Great. How have you been?'
They were now in Rita's office. 'Coffee?'
'Of course,' he responded.
'How time flies, it's been what, ten...eleven years?' A little over ten.
As it so happens sometimes, time or the lack of it causes the void. Friendships
fade, not because people want associations to wane, but because other interests take
precedence. Besides, there were no email addresses at the time they left college, which
could have facilitated keeping in touch. Rita hadn't met Ash, seen him, or even thought
about him in the past ten or more years. She didn't know he was in the city until now:
Ash, her classmate at St Stephen's for one full year.
'You must have been equally surprised to see me?' Ash began. 'Surprised? I was
shocked! And what's with the new name?'
'Well, Ashwin was a bit too long for Britainhad to spell it out every single time,
so just shortened it to Ash. Microsoft Word told me I was misspelling Mittal every time,
the correct spelling should have been Mattel from the beginning. Ash smiled. You don't
like it?'
'Would you change it if I said I didn't?'
'You can still call me Ashwin Mittal.'
'How long are you here for?'
'Four weeks, but the plan is to spend some time in Goa.' There was silence in the
room, the kind of embarrassing quiet where two people struggle to carry the
conversation forward. 'You still single?' Ash filled the hiatus.
'Yes. Loved, lost. You?'
'You've done better than me then. I've loved, married, divorced. 2:1.'
'No kids?'
'Thank God we didn't stretch our mistake that far.' He gave a forlorn smirk, and Rita
comprehended it wasn't a good subject to carry on talking about. She didnt need to
know, and he didn't need to enquire either about the years after college, their partners,
spouses or their sex lives. At any rate, both were mature enough to recognise this wasn't
a blind date; this was a professional meeting at Mumbai Police HQ.

'Want to tell me about the case?' Ash segued into professional discourse.
Rita gave a succinct account of both murders, expounding the juxtaposition between
the two incidents, the mysterious phone calls right before the murders, the MO, the lack
of any clues. 'One of my colleagues was optimistic about getting some prints off the
lipstick that the search team found under the bed, but ' Rita stopped mid-sentence.
'You're having a laugh. If you get any prints from anything at the crime scene, they
would most certainly be someone else's. Serial killers are immaculate planners. They
need to be. Part of the lust is in planning and the aftermath. Some even keep diaries,
pictures, newspaper clippings, record news and minute details. Goading stimulates
planning the next kill. From what you've told me so far, it is apparent you've got a
maniac killer who is meticulous, extremely fastidious, has above average IQ, and who
isn't leaving anything to chance. Yes, he could slip, but I wouldn't wager waiting for his
blunder to apprehend him.'
'So, you are certain it's not just a coincidence that the two murders are so similar?'
'Similarities can, of course, be coincidental. The very fact that two men get murdered
is the beginning of the similarity. The question is how many more similarities does it
take for you to discount the coincidence factor and accept that it's orchestrated? No two
murders are ever identical, though. Similar, yes, but not identical. These killers gather
experience every time they strike and, sometimes, improvise. At other times, change
their MO to please themselves. This killer attacked your second victim more
aggressively, which is apparent. He is, like others, proving to be a sadist. He will try to
inflict more pain, be more gruesome. He doesn't have to play by the rules, there isn't a
regimented MO he has to follow. There might well be other factors that could have
inadvertently made him alter his MO some noise in the vicinity that made him attack
more fiercely to finish off the job faster, maybe? Or another knife available at the second
location, which he used as a weapon. Perhaps one of the incisions wasn't from the knife
he carried? But there is a theme emerging in his MO, that's vital. This psycho doesnt see
himself anything less than an artiste in his twisted brain. And hes got bolder in signing
his art, signature art.'
'You mean' Words didn't come out when Rita opened her mouth to speak.
'You have a slightly tricky killer here. I can tell because in most cases the signature
is typically absent in the first few crimes, then barely perceptible, but prominent in later
killings. But in this case, it was detectable in the first kill.' Ash gathered he was getting
too close to the case at hand, without having set the general scene of what degenerate
serial killers were capable of. He consciously decided to keep the discussion general.
Rita could bring him back to the case when she was ready, he reckoned. 'Signature could
be anything from MO, how he gets to the victim, how he selects, to something he leaves
at the scene or takes away. Very few are known to take body parts of victims as trophies
though that's not new and the missing piece becomes the signature. Signature is,
usually, specific to a degenerate though you'd find the signature might get copied, as
someone might fake it to put another corpse into the account of the existing serial killer;
if the serial killer gets nailed, whos going to believe him if he cries he only killed ten,

not eleven? The signature is left to taunt you, tantalise you, for you to identify that it's his
work. And it's the signature that, eventually, might give him away.
Rita looked agape.
Remember one thing, most serial killers want to be caught, but dont assume that
they will make it easy for you. Unless, he becomes stupid due to intoxication or boldness
inspired by it,' Ash uttered with a deadpan face and shut up to give Rita a chance to
digest all that he had explicated.
Rita had read some of this on the web, but she let Ash carry on.
'All serial killers seek attention; it's a narcissistic addiction. Whatever you do, don't
give him a moniker. I am confident he'd love to be called something like The Mumbai
Ripper or The Mumbai Dahlia. These people thrive on attention. At this moment, I can
guarantee, your killer must be sitting somewhere Googling his name every hour to see
how many pages spring up. If you read the police archaeological files, it's been proven
that many serial killers are known to visit the site of their misdeeds to admire their
work. Vanity. A few have been apprehended because of being there. But that doesn't
deter them, like a death sentence doesn't. Its conceited daredevilry. I admire the way
you have managed not to give away much to the media so far. But if you let media totally
dry out, he will risk making contact with someone some crime reporter or someone in
your police department to seek attention, to find glory. And, that is where he is prone
to making a mistake. Remember, he is getting slick at killing, but his skills might fall
short when he makes contact like giving away a postmark on a letter, fingerprints,
handwriting, voice, tone, accent...something might provide a clue. Is it possible for you
to take a press injunction for a while?'
Rita reflected on Ash's advice. One could stop the police from giving a name to the
killer, but how does one stop the media? Press injunctions might work in the UK, but
there wasn't any such legal provision in India. Moreover, powerful people who couldnt
be stopped controlled the media here. The silence hung in the room for a while, like
trapped cigar smoke.
'And your surmise is?' Rita finally opened a window.
'As a criminal profiler who is working on this case, from the outside, the murders
don't look like a coincidence, believe me.'
'And youve been referring to the killer as him, how can you be so sure it's a male?'
'Course it's a male, a hundred-and-ten per cent. It's not a female psyche working
here.'
Ash affirmed the belief Mumbai Police had held so far. 'Can there be two of them
acting together?'
'Oh yes, Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, the Hillside Stranglers in the US. The theory
that these men or women work alone was a fallacy, proven wrong by the man and
woman team infamous for the Moors Murders in the UK. There is nothing typical about
serial killers, Rita. They are maniacs. If they have had a difficult childhood, been raped
or somehow made an association of death with sex...any perversion can lead to this. The
MO is a telltale sign, but, again, some are known to alter their coup de grce to dodge

the police. They have a prolific imagination.


'So our suspect could well have committed these two murders in collusion with
someone?'
Ash nodded. 'A woman?'
'You cannot rule out anything, not at this stage Rita. However, what's different in this
case is that your killer seems to be targeting just men, while all recorded cases of serial
killers so far show a tendency to target either women or, both, men and women. But,
maybe, because it's early days...'
Rita looked open-mouthed at Ash at the mention of early days. Was the killer going
to get fiercer? More savage? She wanted to close her eyes and purge the images Ash had
just painted. Even though the air-conditioner had been on in the room since the morning,
Mumbai's sweltering heat was getting to her. She stood up, took off her jacket and flung
it on an empty chair.
'You're not shooting me?' Ash remarked seeing the gun in Rita's holster. 'Not yet.'
Both smiled. Both understood that humour was critical to steel one's nerves; wit
shielded grimness of this nature from getting to the conscience, lest sleeping at nights
could be impossible. And, she knew, what Ash was about to unleash further wasn't going
to be romantic either.
'Before I go any further,' Ash began, 'I want you to know that I am a mere criminal
profiler, so whatever I say is a probability. Reading human minds cannot be an exact
science. There could be a-thousand-and-one reactions if you subjected a thousand and
one humans to the same conditions. So what I predict is actually that: a prediction, not
gospel truth.'
Rita grinned. 'Now could you please conclude your statutory warnings and give me a
profile, Mr Smarty Mattel? Remember you are not here on duty so don't bother with the
legalities. We aren't going to sue you, so please dont try to get out of it on the basis of
some technicality. Would you like some more coffee?'
'Nah. How about dinner? It'll be time for dinner soon. Where are you taking your
guest for dinner? Least I expect is a date for the free advice I dispense?'
'And hopefully, your date ends at dinner.'
'If you insist.'
'What kind of food would my guest like to eat this evening?'
'Indian, of course. What's the question?'
'Ever been to Bombay Brassiere?' Ash shook his head. No.
'I'll ask someone to book a table.'
Rita called out to someone and asked for reservation for eight-thirty. 'We've got an
hour now,' she said, keeping the phone down.
'I saw you looked concerned when I mentioned it could be early days. It's quite easy
to see through your killer...' Rita gave a nod to confirm Ash was on the right course for
she didn't wish to speak and break the thread. He understood and carried on. 'No one
gets up one fine day and starts killing; it's almost certainly some longstanding pent-up
score they retaliate against. Of course, there is some tipping point that sparks the

planning, and the route to revenge the killing, but that isolated instance isn't the
beginning of their persecution. That, if anything, is the beginning of their tormentors'
devastation. At least in the maniacs mind.
Actual events could unfold later, much later. You still with me?' Ash looked at Rita
again who acquiesced with yet another nod. 'Though serial killers and rapists are known
to take belongings of their victims as souvenirs it's a kind of ritual, a certificate for
sick heads as I mentioned, taking away body parts is a different affair. It signifies that
your suspect lives alone or has a large detached storeroom or garage, which is highly
unlikely in Mumbai, unless he's a multi-millionaire. Maybe a basement? Or an
apartment, house, a deserted farm that his family has no knowledge of, and which has
unrestricted access and exit without the neighbours getting in the way or being alerted at
his visiting the place at odd hours? Also, if he has a family, then he has a job that allows
him to leave home at odd hours. Maybe works night shifts? Taking away a body part in
the second, known, act signifies its a new offender who is still building his Modus
Operandi. My reasoning tells me he is either young, or has just started or just been
released from somewhere to have resumed the killings. He might have killed before, but
two murders in such a short span seems killing has now developed into a dominant focus
in his life. He doesn't steal, doesn't fuck you found no sperm at either location, but
destroys genitalia. Mind you, to me, it seems like there could be a reason.'
'It's strange to think even crooked, evil crime like this could actually have a reason.'
Rita looked skyward and rolled her eyes in disgust.
'Stranger things have happened; facts that have truly been stranger than fiction, and
that is not a clich...'
'Any example?'
'9/11. Too strange to even be fiction. Would anyone have believed it if it hadn't
occurred? Nothing is ever likely about a murder. Even the sheer act is an unlikely event,
is it not? Things don't make sense only when you do not have the complete picture or the
other person's perspective. Everything else should make sense.'
Mr Smooth was turning out to be a real brain. He definitely made sense. Each word
he uttered was calculated, weighed before it left his eloquent tongue.
'I see what you mean. You've become smart in the last decade or so, I have to admit.'
'You mean smart-er; the butcher doesn't need to be a genius, he just has to be smarter
than the lamb to survive. I've been in the profession long enough to learn a few tricks,
that's all.' He passed an I-know-it-all smile. His attempted modesty was subtly draped in
vanity, the one that prompts the listener to react and compliment further, but Rita braked
hard to stop her from sliding.
'I am sorry to have missed telling you something. When I visited the first crime
scene, there was a faint floral scent lingering in the room despite the overpowering
smell of cordite, my trusted inspector confirmed it too. Our first impression was that it
could be a woman, but we didn't think it was likely. Then we found this lipstick on the
second crime scene, which, though, could have nothing to do with our killer whatsoever.'
'Never disregard your first impressions; it's nature's way of telling you something.

That's how all other animals survive. They survive on their instincts, their first
impressions. If you get any further pointers like that' Ash puckered his lips, the eyes
looked towards the ceiling as if an idea had just flashed. 'Is it possible for me to join you
at the next crime scene?'
'You mean you are sure he's going to strike again?'
'Oh, I have no doubts he will; he will kill again. Very shortly. You should use your
resources to establish if he knew the two victims or did he just select them on some
random basis? Settling some past score present wound or primordial? Or is he plain
psycho? Is it passion killing or premeditated? Ad-lib place selection or is it
preselected? If there is but one killer, there has to be a link, a pattern, some reason. Why
these two men in particular, and not their neighbours? Think about it.'
Weve searched and found the victims had nothing to do with each other, no
connection whatsoever. They probably never met
You dont find the connection, you dont find a pattern; you dont find the pattern,
you dont catch this killer. Ever. He isnt someone youd just catch in the act.
'It could be just random...'
'A random killer kills at random but, like chaos theory, you should find a pattern a
similarity in victims, situations, times...something.' Ash sounded confident.
Rita was at a near complete loss. It was unsettling to know they were two murders
down and hadn't picked up any trail yet. They were still looking for no one. And
everyone. She remembered sitting for hours trying to solve the first puzzle her dad had
bought for her when she was five or six. When she was on the verge of tears, her father
had told her to leave the pieces that don't fit in for now. Eventually, they will, he had
said. The pieces in this mystery weren't fitting in either, but she knew that eventually they
would. When? The challenge was to fit these pieces together before...before the third
she kiboshed the next deliberation raising its ugly head in her mind. Dinner? She
looked at the clock. Sure.
Youve got a car?
I make it a point to drive every time I am in India to hone my Indian driving skills.
The wide smile on the face of the maitre d' at Bombay Brassiere divulged that he knew
Rita, and knew well who she was, despite her mufti. As they waited for dinner, Rita
looked nonplussed; the murders were still dominating her mind, her hands inadvertently
playing with the knife and fork that lay on the table.
You need to detach from the case, Rita.
I know. Could you picture this guyI mean with all the experience you have, could
you mentally draw what he does, what he looks likeanything that can help?
Who knows? The Boston Strangler, DeSalvo, had an abusive, alcoholic father. He
didn't get much formal education and had a stint in the army. He reigned because the
police had no description. Ted Bundy was actually a well-educated man who ran his
own business and even served for Washington State Crime Commission. To keep going,
whenever he could be identified, he moved locations, cities, and states. He was caught,
and escaped, but he couldn't stop. You know why? Its a perverse craving that doesn't

just go away, it doesn't,


Rita. Once a killer goes down this path, it is inconceivable to get back to normal life.
It's a cul-de-sac the twisted mind, the love of killing, the passion doesnt allow you
to.
Circumstances don't permit either. There was one thing, however, that was common
in the two killers I just mentioned.'
'Sexual control? Rita chipped in.
'That too, but what I was trying to point towards was their charm.'
'Charm?'
Both were extremely charming characters. Your killer seems charming too; if he can
make other men accept him into their rooms, then drink whatever he gives thembut I
reckon this killer is a loner, lives alone if he took the organ, which should make your
task easier. He is, most likely, living with some form of sexual inadequacy, has above
average intelligence, which is apparent from the planning and the execution. He is
unquestionably a sadist; he causes bodily harm, mutilates, dismembers. What puzzles me
is that one of the vital ingredients sex is missing. He cannot wipe off signs of
sexual activity if theres been any. Ash raised both his brows to indicate the waiter was
close enough now, and that they should stop talking.
Bon apptit.
One last thing about the case before we move on to talk about something better,
these murders dont look like crimes of passion; they arent chance murders, and it
surely isnt a scrambled brain contriving them.
Rita shook her head in resignation, her eyes still full of questions.
Don't let routine throttle your intelligence, don't let logic overpower creativity.
Think like you've never thought before to come up with an answer you cannot imagine or
cannot believe. Think like him. What would you do, now, if you were him?
The dinner was over. The business discussion had concluded.
Tell me something Ash, how do you remember me from college days? I could ask
you the same question.
You were easy to remember you were the only one who left after one year. But
for you to remember the whole class?
Who said I remember the whole class? I remember you. Vividly.
Why me?
You were the only girl in the class who wore a bikini at the pool.
What?
You were hot. I mean you still are Ash corrected himself.
If I remember correctly, you were hot back then tooin a different way. So, they
had liked each other back in college.
Why didnt you tell me then? asked Ash.
I didnt want you to try to get me into your bed.
Why are you telling it to me now? Ash had an expectant smile on this face.
Maybejust maybe I want you to get into my bed.

Really?
Oh, dont be ridiculous Ash, I am joking.
Are you saying what I think you're saying? I mean are you really turning me down?'
'I am saying just that. Keep your hands off me Rita laughed. It was good to find an
old friend she could joke with.
Ash drove her to Bandra. She offered him a coffee, but he declined. He had to be up
early next morning for a guest lecture at some medical college.
Are you turning me down? she bantered.
No. I am saving you for a better day. Dont forget to check if you can take me along
to the next crime scene.
There was something strange in her apartment. Had she forgotten to switch off her
bedroom light when she had left this morning? Easy mistake to make, she reckoned, but it
was something else. She had experienced this before: the case, the murderer was getting
under her skin.
She changed, took a shower. It was only eleven. She had made Jim a promise that
shed see him tonight; she kept it. Pouring a small one in a glass, she put on Dylan and
sat down on the floor cushions to relax. The mind was edgy, the case was bothering her,
but her mind had picked up another fear today: would she never be able to get over
Karan? She pulled out the drawer to look at old photographs. Holding on to photographs
was only a euphemism for trying to hold on to time, a bygone time. Most events
happened only once in an individual's life, and her mind was crying out deafeningly.
Karan was gone. Forever.
Replay, even if she could manage it, would never provide the same feeling. There
was a reason why Frank Sinatra never sang the same song twice in the exact same way.
No two recordings were ever the same, she remembered her dad telling her once.
Move on Rita. How long can you live on hope?

ELEVEN
1985
Reagan and Gorbachev were to meet for the first time a year later, but the meeting wasn't
expected to be cataclysmic, and it wouldnt disappoint the cynics. A round of
discussions between the Americans and Soviets didnt mean peace would break out or
the Cold War would end. Those who knew Viviane back in Moscow and thought that she
had successfully escaped to the UK, along with Margaret and Deborah, would have
envied her for living the dream, while she, unfailingly, deplored her mistaken fantasy of
escaping to the western world; it had been a wrong turn from the Red to the red-light,
she and Margaret often discussed.
Time was a foggy frame of reference over sixteen years spent frolicking, even
behind iron-clad Moscow, seemed to have passed in a flash; a couple of years in
Bombay had become so unbearably heavy that they had altered their whole lives, the
entire outlook, the attitude. Sadly though, this wasn't the end, Viviane reckoned, there
was no way out. Deborah had underestimated the risks and attempted fleeing twice in
their first year of arrival, and the sanctions had been severe: solitary confinement, then
repeatedly being raped for over 24 hours with no food, no mercy whatsoever, but she,
nevertheless, got away eventually if killing oneself counted as a getaway, that is. The
destitute slit her wrists after the second 24- hour punishment she suffered following a
second futile attempt. It sent shivers down the spines of the all other girls in the lodging.
This was one world that had no doctor, no police, no court, no jury. Just ex parte
sentencing. There was only one law, one verdict, one executioner. Justice Pathak. This
was Pathak's world; the dark underbelly that no one ever dared to scratch. No one even
harboured the insidious idea of fleeing, much less giving it cogent thought.
Surprisingly, the initial angst Viviane had burnt with, waned. She realised that there
wasn't much point souring oneself over something which she had no control over. All it
led to was simmering, making her conscious of her defeat. In any case, the world wasn't
waiting for an ex-whore. It wasn't like men queued up to take ex-hookers to church on
Sundays or to their mothers to fix an alliance. What if she escaped now? Wasn't it too
late? In the last few years, she had been made to fuck almost daily with whoever paid.
She had mastered the art of shut- your-mind-and-open-your-legs.
Ironically, pulchritude wasn't a positive for Viviane. Considering her profession and
circumstances, her beauty had men swooning, and the more men coveted her, the more
she had to work. But she was no longer terrified of anything after her first year. She
remembered the tipping point, the ordeal, clearly. She had been specifically asked to
wear a short black gingham skirt, thigh-high stockings, white shirt and tie to see a rather

burly bully of a client unexpectedly; unexpectedly, cause she had her periods, and clients
usually stayed away for those three-four days, but this monster had specifically asked for
Viviane despite her condition.
'I'm on the blob,' she told him, kneeling down to suck him off.
'So?' He pulled her up with her hair and threw her on the bed. 'Who do you think you
are Liz-fuckin'-Taylor? Turn around bitch. I know other ways to recover my money.
Let me give your back passage some exercise.' He looked down at her. 'Ooh, what a tight
balloon knot. You got some gel?'
Pressed under his weight, she could hardly move, but she resisted.
'No? No problem bitch. He spat into his hand and with sheer brute force punctured
her sphincter. After violently thrusting for a few minutes, he left her balled-up, tears in
her eyes. Tears of excruciating pain, tears of shame and degradation.
When she had later recounted the sordid episode to Margaret, her friend had laughed
and explained that it happened all the time, and that men paid extra for it.
"It is a slam-dunk to get it up the arse. You'll get used to it. Aren't you lucky you
aren't accosting on the streets of Bombay. You should be glad you're safe."
Lucky? Glad? There wasn't even relief. What could possibly be worse?
Viviane never bothered to confide her squalid humiliation or pain to Margaret. The
two were, of course, friends, but perhaps only because there wasnt anyone else.
Besides each other, they could never trust anyone else in this duplicitous place.
Backstabbing for tiddly favours, like a free cigarette or cheap alcohol, was common
amongst girls.
Deviate, sick and weird men wanted more than just sex. An ambitious girl had
agreed to go for an all-night-anything-goes party. She had to be physically carried back
into the room at noon the next day. Viviane pledged never to agree for such a party.
However, now that she was eighteen, it would be permissible for VIPs to buy her
services discreetly in the comfort of their bed.
First rule of prostitution: never take a drunken trick's mumblings seriously. Rutting men
ejaculated at both ends; some uttered vulgarities and obscenities, others showered the
slag with praises, even love. Some even returned to lavish a chosen one with small gifts
or pay generous tips without the knowledge of their pimps.
All in the name of lust!
When JD, the impossibly good-looking 28-year-old heir-apparent of one of the most
dangerous illegal arms and liquor dealers in Bombay, saw Viviane for the first time the
attraction was magnetic. And mutual. If rumours were to be believed, JD's father Bir
Desai was ostensibly a benefactor of the Khalistan movement, when, in reality, he was
an Amritsar- based notorious arms dealer who smuggled firearms specifically the
famous Kalashnikovs, the AK-47s and disposed them of to the insurgent Sikhs in the
late 70s. Intrinsically connected to unscrupulous politicians, he was forewarned of Mrs
Gandhi's intentions of Operation Bluestar way ahead of time. Having amassed enough
wealth, he quickly moved his base to Bombay and laid low for a few months. He could
have started a new life like other law-abiding citizens, but Bir Desai naturally gravitated

towards the life of crime.


Bir Desai had been canny enough to carry the large consignment of Russian
handguns, and ammunition when he fled Punjab which he sold cheaply to an
equally infamous and dreaded liquor baron called Dada, who distilled more illicit
alcohol than the whole of Scotland put together. Desai won favours off Dada and became
his confidant. It wasn't long before Desai was screwing the heroin-addict kingpin's
pretty, young wife Kiran. Together, the two lovers poisoned the old horse. Desai happily
obliged by taking over the dying man's gang and the businesses. And his wife.
Bir Desai, thus, became a dreaded denizen of Bombay underworld.
When Kiran died, Desai met Marie a young Anglo-Indian girl a couple of
years later and after another couple of years of concubinage, Jay Desai was sired.
Jay Desai was happy his parents had named him Jay Desai. He shortened it to JD,
which was also the moniker for Jack Daniels, the whiskey he started drinking when he
woke up till he passed out since he had been seventeen. On a friend's insistence, he had
agreed to visit a massage parlour a pseudonym for a whorehouse across the country
Club Cuffe Parade. However, when JD saw Viviane in the room, he was besotted. It
was animal attraction at first sight. For the first time she didn't have to go through the
motions, she actually found sex pleasurable.
Pathak was called into the room the next morning and JD demanded Viviane should
only entertain him. Pathak didn't dare to negotiate; he knew JD's ancestry. If Pathak was
believed to be dangerous, Bir Desai was a known nutcase. Moreover, JD was willing to
pay for Viviane's time. And maintenance.
Success is such a relative thing; being a mistress of the son of a feared gangland's
boss was respectable amongst hookers. Viviane became the queen-bee, venerated by
some, envied by others.
JD funded some changes in Viviane's room; a bottomless minibar, always stocked
with JD to keep JD inebriated, was installed. He was quite smitten and spent most of his
nights with her. As for the day, he didn't work but he returned home only to refill his
wallet from Bir Desai's exchequer. Desai Senior had no issues with his only son
spending the money, but he wanted to see the son, in whatever state, every day. With no
dearth of enemies, unbeknown to JD, but well known to anyone else who had any
inclination to harm him, four plainclothesmen followed him everywhere. Surveillance
was round the clock, even when he was with Viviane in the room. Bir Desai knew about
Viviane. Heck! He knew more about Viviane, including her past and origins in Moscow,
than even Pathak did, but he turned a blind eye. JD was safer locked in a room with a
whore than on the streets.
JD showered more money on Viviane, buying her dresses, flowers, ordering food
from the best restaurants while he was there. On her birthday, he told Pathak he was
taking her out for the weekend. Money paid, JD took Viviane to The Taj Mahal Hotel
the one the three girls had eyed in awe when they had waited for Mr Patel three years
ago.
However sleazy her relationship with JD was, Viviane convinced herself this was

the dream even if only for just this weekend. She contemplated asking JD to help her get
away from the filthy whorehouse, but didn't.
He might see that as her way of breaking loose from him. There would be more
occasions, she was sure.
JD took her out shopping to Colaba, and they wined and dined in a Thai restaurant on
Friday night. They woke up in each others arms on Saturday morning and ordered their
breakfast in bed.
'You want to go anywhere in particular?'
'Bandra.' Viviane had known about Bandra even before she arrived in Bombay. The
place had the distinction of housing the most number of Roman Catholic churches in any
city.
Mount Mary Church, built by the Portuguese, faced the Arabian Sea, and was the
most visited church in the area. It had been long over three years since Viviane
had been to a church, any church. Though she didn't know what she would ask for.
Forgiveness? Or should she thank Him? She was delighted that JD, despite being a nonChristian, came into the church with her, although she found it a bit bizarre that he kept
looking over his shoulder, like he was expecting someone.
It was twilight when they came out of the church holding hands, unaware they were
being watched. Watched by four pairs of tireless eyes in two white Tata Indica cars,
parked at a distance. By the next morning, Bir Desai would know his son was now a
devotee.
They, next, drove to where all lovers went to in Bombay: Band Stand the rampart
of the original fort built by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century, as it provided farreaching views of the sea. Couples still came for the same reason: for the best sea views
in Bombay. They sat in the car, overlooking the sea. Viviane was extremely happy to
gaze at the sky and the stars. How she wondered where they were...and how had she lost
her way with them in her eyes? Unaware of JD's lineage and the perils that
accompanied it she wanted to step out of the car, hold his hand and take a walk, but
he declined.
'Its not safe,' he told her. 'Why? There's no one else here.'
'You think so?'
He looked in the rear-view mirror. He thought he had seen a car stopping at a
distance. No, he hadn't heard the engine die, but he had seen the parking lights being
switched off a few minutes ago. As his eyes got used to the darkness, he could see the
metal outline of, in fact, two cars.
'There are two cars behind us, sweetie. And they've been there for quite some time
now.'
'You think Pathak bhais getting us followed?'
'He wouldn't dare.'
'Wouldn't dare? Why not?'
'My dad would kill him if he did anything stupid like that,' JD responded in a matterof-fact tone.

'What?' Viviane quizzically looked at JD.


'I said if Pathak even as much as thought of causing any harm to me, that would be his
last thought. My dad would kill him and his rats.'
'You mean...really kill them?'
JD mimicked a gunshot with his hand. 'Yes.' He blew smoke out of the barrel of his
imaginary gun.
'What does your dad do?'
'I'll tell you later.' He sensed some movement in his rear-view mirror, immediately
turned on the ignition and put the car in gear.
It was a great weekend. Not once had JD made her feel like a whore. But, it was
only a weekend.
Second rule of prostitution: fuck, fuck, fuck, but never get pregnant.
Viviane got pregnant. She was delighted when she found out in December, though all
the others forewarned her that it would be the end of JD's fancy. Pathak reprimanded her
on the carelessness; he couldn't believe she could be so dumb. He was conscious this
would mean the end of a regular flow of cash from the Desai coffers and forbade
Viviane or anyone else from breaking the unfortunate news to JD. He knew many
quacks in Bombay who aborted illegally, that wasn't an issue. The problem was coming
up with an excuse to refuse JD from seeing the tart for a couple of days. He couldn't
share his wicked plan with Viviane. The only option left was to get someone to Cuffe
Parade and let the amateur do the misdeed.
But if something went wrong, and Viviane died? He couldn't risk the wrath of the
Desais.
Viviane disobeyed Pathaks edict and told JD about the pregnancy before the week was
over.
'When did it happen?'
'I hadn't anticipated how many times we'd make out when you took me out for the
weekend, I ran out of pillsBut, please don't tell Pathak bhai, he warned everyone not
to tell you...please...' She almost pleaded.
'Why not? It's my baby.'
'He'll '
'He wouldn't dare say anything.'
'Because your dad will kill him?'
'Yes. I was serious.'
'You didn't tell me what your dad does.'
'He's a gangster, not an ordinary gangster who works for someone else'
'Is he likeGodfather?' A ray of hope appeared in Vivianes eyes. If JDs dad was
more powerful than Pathak
'Yes. Only twice as ruthless, and I am his only child.'
'And you, are you a gangster too?'

'Not yet. Does it matter?'


She flushed. Fear in her eyes, lips pressed tight, she gently shook her head. She
really wasn't in a position to mind anyone's profession.
Viviane delivered her baby in the summer of '86. On the morning of July the 12th. It
should have been the happiest day of her life, but it turned out to be exactly the opposite.
JD didn't turn up that night. She was woken up in the middle of the night by Pathak and
asked to follow him to the anteroom where a crowd stood watching the telly. A hush
dominated the room as she came in. Doordarshan had its midnight bulletin of local news
being read:
"Mr Jay Desai, son of Mr Bir Desai, the noted firearms dealer, has been shot dead
earlier this evening. A not-yet-identified man pumped six bullets into Mr Jay Desai at
close range as he sat in his car on the traffic light in Nepean Sea Road, less than a
kilometre away from his family residence. Police suspect the hand of a rival gang in the
killing and are investigating..."
"Good. Now the bitch has to peddle ass once again..."
Viviane overheard someone saying. She went numb. Nothing registered in her brain
after that.
Life always played one-sided games, didnt let people negotiate. Now, it had taken
him, and left her in this hole. If only it had been the other way round. Viviane would
have hardly minded dying.
Sadly, the Angels of Death dont negotiate.

TWELVE
2007
The letter lay on his table, a plain brown manila envelope marked "Urgent, Private &
Confidential", and so it found its way to the top of the pile ready to be the first thing he
picked up when he the owner, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of NEWS of the DAY, Amit
Narang, arrived at his desk at the Nariman Point HO of his publication that morning. And
that was precisely what he did. He picked up the envelope even before he sat down, tore
it from the side and took out the single A4 sheet it contained. As he dropped the
envelope on the desk and rested his fat backside on the black leather swivel chair, he
realised there was something more in the packet. He upended it curiously and glared at
the SIM card that hit the desk with a tiny sound. He picked it up and looked at it
perplexedly, before returning his gaze to read the letter he had cast aside.
"Dear Mr Narang,
I am confident that, by now, you have destroyed the only prints Mumbai
Police have been looking for. The SIM card enclosed with this letter is the one I
had used to call Samir Suri before I killed him. I have another one which I had
used to call Adit Lele. Do you want it? If yes, then I want your newspaper to
cover the story of these murders closely. There are more to come. Many more.
Remember, I am watching you. If you do not do something within the next 24
hours, I will be forced to go somewhere else. Even worse, you could be next. Now,
you wouldn't like that, would you?"
The letter was unsigned, typed in the Ariel font and printed on a laser printer.
Amit Narang stared at the paper like it was some UFO. He was forty-three, and
looked more like the janitor of the building than the owner of a newspaper, if one could
call his rag one. He was a rare specimen of enthusiasm married to dazzling
incompetence, powered only by fortune, and some fortune that was. K.R. Narang, his
father, was in the league of the most corrupt politicians India had ever had, which by no
means was an easy feat in a developing country plagued with corruption. Despite being
expelled from power years ago, the father had enough clout that no one dared to mess
with him or his son. Amit Narang's own moral compass didn't point north either:
illegitimate money, insincere sycophants for company, immoral friends, iniquitous
lifestyle. Illicit activities and businesses more than funded his standard of living. And
the newspaper gave him a licence to carry out his carefree existence. Since no one dared
to challenge him, he published news, articles, flaming editorials for kickbacks. He
shaped careers, destroyed people, dug for dirt if he disliked someone, and veiled

miscreants if they helped him or bribed him. And now it seemed that even the heavens
were happy with him for sending him this opportunity for a scoop, and then some. He
looked at the phone, picked it up, and then put it back in the cradle. He needed to reflect.
It was no good telling everyone; he needed to speak to someone who could think. Fuck,
this could be a goldmine. He read the letter again and looked at the SIM card. When he
looked up, he could see Anita Raizada through the blinds on the glass of his office. Why
he hadnt fucked her till now was the first thought that crossed his depraved mind. He
remembered that it was, irrefutably, the only reason he had hired her a few months ago
a young girl with no experience or references, she had come in a tight short skirt and
a deep dcolletage and during the course of the interview, as they evaluated her, he had
imagined her in his bed. How had he forgotten? Well, the time was ripe to test her now.
If he did her a favour, shouldn't she reciprocate? Isn't that how the world worked? He
picked up his phone and dialled his secretary. 'Send Anita in.'
'May I come in?' Anita knocked and peeped in.
'Oh yes. Sit down. Coffee?' What was wrong with this girl, why was she covered
from head to toe now?
'Yes. Thanks.'
Narang called his secretary and ordered coffee. 'I have a scoop for you Anita, but
only if you agree to the terms. I can guarantee that if you take up the challenge, and my
advice, this could be a career defining case.'
'What is it?'
'Excited already?'
'Oh yes. You know I came here right out of college and you accepted me, for which I
am indebted. Now, you're trusting me with a case you think is momentous, I am
honoured.'
The coffee arrived. The secretary poured the brew into the china and left as quietly
as he had entered the boss's office.
'Good. I know you are hungry for success and I like such people. It reminds me of my
own youth when I was struggling.'
Hardly, you fraud, Anita wanted to spit out, knowing well that Narang never had to
labour for anything. 'I know sir,' she agreed politely.
'Good.'
Without another word, he passed on the letter he had just received, and watched her
read it. Fuck, she was gorgeous.
'Is this...really? Oh my God, is this' Words poured out of her mouth staccato. 'Yes.
The killer wants to be in touch with us, and I can let you cover this case for our paper.'
'I am really flattered. I'll do anything to take up this case.'
'Ah...you can't just say that, you have to show me that you mean you'd do anything.'
'How?'
Was she daft? Did she keep her eyes and ears closed at work? She'd been here two
months now. She should have known what the boss liked, by now. Was he supposed to
explain to her what he wanted in return?

'It's like this Anita. I will get in touch with Mumbai Police and ask them to cooperate
on your story from now on. If the killer is in touch with us, they better listen to our
demands.'
'But why us, sir? I mean he could have gone to any newspaper or television channel
in Mumbai and '
'Because we are the best.' Narang had lied for so long about the excellence of his rag
that he had even deceived himself too. 'Don't you agree?'
'Of course I do.' Anita responded like she was anticipating the question. 'Where is
the envelope, sir?'
'You can call me Amit. Why do you want the envelope?' He looked around at his
desk and held out the same to her.
'For the postmark.' Dickhead. She left the qualifier out of the sentence. Holding the
manila envelope at the corners to save for the forensic lab whatever her moronic boss
had not smudged already, she examined the stamps carefully. Churchgate. 'It was posted
from Churchgate yesterday.'
'Wow...'
Anita managed a smile. How sharp was that? That was the first thing any person with
an IQ over a hundred would have scanned for, but Amit Narang, she knew, was gifted
with a brain the size of an ostrich's.
'Okay, now let's see if you want to take this story. Ill speak to the Crime Branch
officers do you know who's handling this case?'
'DCP Rita Ferreira.'
A woman? Narang let his surprise pass. 'Who's her boss? I'll speak to her boss, it
always puts pressure on the investigating officer. Find out who this Rita Ferreira's boss
is and come back, I'll call him. These fucking coppers are no better than dogs. If the bone
doesn't work, the stick does.'
'Could I speak to Mr Vikram Joshi please? No, I do not have an appointment, but I need
to speak to him urgently. I am Amit Narang, Editor-in-Chief of the NEWS of the DAY.
Yes, I'll hold on.' Narang winked at Anita to convey that his authoritative tone had
worked.
'Joint Commissioner Joshi here, Mr Narang. What can I do for you?'
'This is regarding the recent murders in Versova and the ITC hotel, Mr
Commissioner.'
'Oh, my junior is in charge of the case. What is it about the murders that you want to
know?'
'On the contrary, it is we who have some information. The killer has been in touch with
our newspaper this morning, and we'd like to hand over the letter he's sent to us, but in
return, we'd like to get some exclusive information on the investigation being done by
your department.'
Joshi pressed the buzzer under his table and his assistant arrived in a flash. Keeping
a hand on the mouthpiece, he mimed Rita. Now. Noting the urgency in his masters

eyes, the assistant ran out to the Ops Room to get Rita.
'What have you received?'
Narang read out the letter verbatim.
Rita had only got into the Operation Room for the first briefing of the day when
Joshis assistant who insisted that the boss wanted her pronto pulled her out.
When Rita entered Joshi's office, he beckoned her to remain silent by keeping a
finger on his lips like a teacher reprimanding a student, and gestured her to sit. Then he
put the phone on speaker.
Narang's voice filled the room.
'So, as I was saying Mr Commissioner, we need to help each other to find this
criminal, who's already murdered two humble citizens and plans to murder many more.'
'What do you want from us?'
'Co-operation. The killer has notified us that he will be in touch if we cover the
news regarding the murders and the ensuing investigation.'
'Cant you see what he is after, Mr Narang?'
Rita gathered that the killer who had murdered Suri and Lele had contacted some
journalist. Her mind went into overdrive...Narang, Narang, Narang...which newspaper
was it?
'The bastard,' Joshi carried on. 'He wants NEWS of the DAY to cover events so he
gets information on how far the investigation has reached, and how he can outmanoeuvre
the police. Hes playing with you and us, Mr Narang.'
NEWS of the WORLD, Anita, Anita somethingRita became alert again, her mind
returned to the conversation.
'Why don't you come over to my office and we could have a chat, I am at Nariman
Point.'
'As I told you Mr Narang, my junior DCP Ferreira is responsible for this case, so Ill let
her know regarding this without delay. I'd advise you to come over to Crawford Market
immediately so we don't lose any more time.'
'Mr Joshi, I am not giving you the letter if I do not get an exclusive scoop in return.'
'So you want me to bend over backwards because you've got a letter, which could
well be from some weirdo?'
'He's also sent us the SIM card he used to call Samir Suri. Does that mean anything
to you?' Narang thought he, now, had Joshi by the proverbial short hairs.
But he had misjudged Joshi.
'Mr Narang, you have some evidence which might be vital for this case. If you do not
come to Crawford Market in the next two hours, I promise I will send uniformed police
to your office to confiscate the letter and SIM.'
'You have no idea who you're talking to,' Narang raised his voice.
'Oh I know who you are. If you insist, I can send a search warrant for your premises.
If that isn't enough, I can send an arrest warrant for obstructing an investigation, cause if
I get you arrested, I have the right to search your office, residence...' Henpecked he might

have been, but Joshi had balls of steel; he might not have been a toastmaster who wanted
to share limelight, but he was no milquetoast either. Rita was seeing the other side of
Joshi, the side that she had only heard about since she had joined. 'Two hours Mr
Narang, and we can talk. Anything else?'
Tail between his legs, Narang's tone flattened. He was glad he hadn't put the phone
on speaker for Anita to hear the conversation. 'Could I bring my Crime Editor along?'
'Be my guest.'
'Ha, he had to give in,' Narang told Anita after he put the phone down. 'Let's go.'
'How do you want to handle this?' Joshi asked Rita after narrating the content of the
letter and the initial conversation she had missed.
'What does he want?'
'Who?'
'Narang.'
'Scoop. He wants to know details of the investigation, so he can publish. Crazy.'
"Remember, the only thing that works against a serial killer is his desire to get
caught..." Ash Mattel's words echoed in Rita's brain. "He wants to be recognised for
his art." It was all coming true, faster than she had imagined: the killer making contact
with the media, striving to know what the police investigation had accomplished so far,
to gauge how close the police were in getting to him. It needed a more ingenious
approach than Joshi accepting or refusing Narang's request, which was, in effect, the
killer's demand. She recollected Ash explicating that the probabilities of failure were
higher when the killer did something out of routine.
'We need a plan sir. The crime profiler you recommended had warned me of this
situation, so, I think, it is in our interest, as much as it is in Narang's, to keep the dialogue
open with this perp.'
'I agree, but be careful. This Narang guy will certainly try arm-twisting, you just
heard how belligerent he was, almost ready for a fight. I know he's connected to the
political fraternity in the state, despite his father being out of power, but we'll tackle that.
I'll have a word with Mr Saxena before Narang or one of his million stooges
approaches the boss. But, I'd like you to see him with me first time...he is known to
conjure up stories, and he can be dodgy. We need to ensure he doesn't print a single
word before we approve it.'
As I mentioned earlier' Narang harrumphed to get Anitas attention as he drove
her to Crawford Market. 'I might be risking a lot by offering you the opportunity to cover
this case, but I am confident you won't let me down professionally.' He paused. 'And
personally.'
'You can be assured of that, sir.'
'Amit.'
'Sorry. Amit. I'll be discreet, punctual, meticulous '
'I'd like to see everything you pen, and mind you I want everything published under
our joint names. It will give more credibility if the readers see my name.'
Swine. Son-of-a-bitch.

'Oh yes, of course. No problem.'


'Good, professionalism is a must. What else would you do?'
'I am not sure I understand'
Didn't she? Was this girl so witless that she didnt take the hints or was he not being
obvious? He took his left hand off the steering wheel of the car and placed it on her
thigh. Now, do you get it, he wanted to say it. 'I mean something personal for me?'
'But you're married, Amit.' Anita had successfully dodged the insinuations by acting
dumb thus far, but, with Narang boldly moving his hand up her thigh, she knew it was no
longer possible.
Fuck that what is your fucking problem with me being married? I am not proposing
marriage, Narang wanted to yell. But he checked himself. 'Does that bother you?'
'Well, I've never been with a married man.'
'But, I am doing you a big favour, shaping your career,' he said as if it was a fitting
exchange of services.
'Can I think about it?'
'Don't give me a reason to take this case away. I want an answer when you come into
office tomorrow morning.'
Narang and Anita were ushered into Joshi's office after relevant security checks. Narang
was peeved at not being allowed to carry his mobile phone inside. Rules.
'Good afternoon Commissioner sahib,' Narang, having tried his aggression on the
phone and failed, said with aplomb; his demeanour suggested like he was meeting a long
lost friend. He was apparently polite but Rita couldn't help notice the undertone of
haughtiness: I am the power. Arrogant ass. Trying to cut a deal.
'Hello and welcome to our humble office.' Joshi arose and offered his hand. 'This is
DCP Rita Ferreira I mentioned, she's the one in charge of the case.'
Narang held out his paw. 'Meet Anita Raizada, our lead crime reporter.'
Pleasantries exchanged, coffees ordered, Narang produced the letter and SIM card
he had received a few hours previously. Joshi, then Rita, read the letter holding it by its
edges. Rita turned the phone at Joshi's desk towards her and called the Ops Room asking
for someone to drop into Joshi's office ASAP.
'I'd like to send these for analysis without wasting another moment,' she explained,
keeping the phone down.
What was she thinking fingerprints on the envelope or the paper or the SIM? Did
she really think this maniac killer was as dumb as to send his prints on any of these?
What were gloves made for, after all?
There was a gentle tap on the door and Inspector Jatin Singh came in. Rita deluged
him with the details and handed over the properties and packed him off to the laboratory.
That, of course, didn't stop her from observing that he had keenly spotted Anita Raizada
in the room. If he didn't notice her noticing him, it was his sheer inexperience. Rita didn't
miss the attraction in Anita's eyes either, and that gave her the idea instantaneously. What
if Anita was assigned to the case? It didnt matter to the killer who got the news from the
police and as for Narang who cared what he might think or feel? The only catch was,

could Jatin control the information or would Frankenstein take over? Could Anita
manipulate?
'So,' Rita began, before anyone could, when Jatin left. 'What are your expectations?'
'I am a noble citizen, first, before I am a mediaperson. I want the police to take
charge of the situation before I get the story.'
'Of course.' What a loser, Rita thought. 'It was good that you brought this note and the
SIM to us. Thanks. Now, how can we help you?'
'I want to help you.'
'If the killer is going to contact you, like he said, then we need to be aligned. I want
you to pass on all info you get, and we will tell you what you need to publish to get him
to talk more.'
'You want to run my newspaper?' Narang shifted in his chair.
'Let me tell you something Mr Narang, and I will only tell you this once.' Rita
changed her tone from polite to authoritative without looking at Joshi, who sat mutely,
like a judge presiding over a case. 'If you print a single word without my permission, I'll
be talking to you in a cell. You co-operate and we can sort out this mess, apprehend this
killer and we are friends forever. Do I make sense?'
'Of course. I wasn't going to cause panic by publishing anything stupid.' Narang
looked like a dejected student who had anticipated a pat on the back from the teacher for
a job well done, but had got a slap instead. If he was upset, he didn't show.
'Good. Now, I propose we communicate regularly. Your crime reporter Miss
Raizada shall work with us. We will divulge only as much as we think is required to
keep the killer thinking he's getting publicity. It will serve your purpose and ours. We
shall also hold press conferences and disclose the same to the rest of your fraternity, but,
obviously, a few hours later, so the killer believes we are adhering to his demands.'
'I admire you DCP Ferreira, you've taken words out of my mouth.'
'Thanks. Anything else?'
'When do we start?' the eager beaver wanted to know.
Anita, too, wanted to know. Did she still need to sleep with Narang after this, now
that the DCP had specifically outlined the plan with her in the picture.
'Someone will call you later.'
'Happy, Mr Narang?' Joshi concluded the meeting by standing up. Narang and Anita
took the hint, got up and shook hands, exchanged smiles and geared up to leave.
The Ops Room was seething with uncertainties and questions when Rita walked in:
Mathur & Mathur, Jatin, Vikram, Nene and the two sub-inspectors D'Souza and Anand.
They hushed up.
Rita decided to prolong the misery of everyone present knowing Jatin would have,
by now, revealed who he saw in Joshi's room.
Two minutes precisely.
'Is there anything we should know regarding your meeting with NEWS of the DAY
ma'am?' Nene took the lead.

So she was right in her assessment. Jatin had let the cat out.
'In a minute, but before that, Rita turned to Jatin: 'Did the lab give you any time for
when they'll give us the report on the material I gave you?'
'By the evening, I stressed the urgency.'
'Please inform me the moment we get them.' She addressed the entire group: 'The
killer of Lele and Suri has sent a letter to NEWS of the DAY, along with the SIM
card he had used to make the call to Suri, which, I presume, is to substantiate that his
claim is genuine. We, no doubt, shall have that verified by our lab by the evening. As for
finding any clues like fingerprints et cetera, it's highly unlikely, but maybe...'
'But, why would the killer give us information?'
Rita gave a rundown of her session with Dr Ash Mattel the evening before,
highlighting cases where maniac killers had carried out such acts in the past, their hunger
for admiration, recognition, and how that might give them away. 'We have, for that
reason, settled on working in close partnership with NEWS of the DAY. The agreement
we have is that we shall release unclassified information to them, before we give a
general update on investigation to others, so that the killer believes we are adhering to
his demands. We need to be exceedingly cautious in what we release; I don't expect him
to be gullible enough to believe everything we give to his chosen media, so we will
need to think smart to mislead him somehow. Don't ask me how, I don't know yet.'
'Why did he pick NEWS of the DAY?' Jatin, now, appeared confident; Anita and
Narang's visit to Crawford Market was in no way connected to him.
'Well, it certainly confirms his shrewdness. He must have shortlisted tabloids that
thrive on such news, then winnowed down on this one cause its run by an entrepreneur
with dubious morals may I add, who would take the bait. I am sure if he had sent this to
The Times of India, it wouldn't have found its way to Crawford Market in a matter of
hours. That's how smart the killer is, he does his research, plans, executes without
leaving any trace. That said, Inspector Nene please run a check on Narang to see
where he was on the nights of the murders.
As you can imagine, my confidence in Narang and his outfit is extremely low, to say
the least. I want us to write this story, and not let Narang write anything we don't want
him to. To avoid any miscommunication, only one of us will provide the measured dripfeed to his crime correspondent Miss Raizada. I do not want any slip-up here. If she tries
to make contact with anyone else, please do not give any comments.'
'Who?' asked Jatin.
Really Jatin, did you really need to ask that question? 'You, of course.'
'Why me?'
'Because she trusts you. When she was looking for information, you were the one she
contacted, so logically, if anyone of us is already in her good books, it's you Jatin.
'Sure maam.'
'But remember, you are in charge, not Miss Raizada.'
'No problem ma'am. Anita doesn't stand a chance.'
Oh Anita. Not sweetheart? Rita mused. Before she could say the next word, a brain

wave swept in her mind like a camera zooming on something.


Anita.
'Who checked and compared the contacts on Lele and Suri's phone books?'
Takla Mathur and Chota Mathur raised their hands as if they were responding to a
roll call.
'Did you notice something just now? I called her Miss Raizada and Jatin called her
Anita? We referred to the same person by two different names while talking to each
other. Imagine if we both were to store her number in our contacts on the phone, theyd
be under different names. I bet we missed it.' Rita was talking directly to Mathur &
Mathur now. 'Did you compare only the contacts or the numbers too?'
'Contacts only.'
'Compare the numbers. Quick! If you find any common number, report to me
immediately. Meeting dismissed.'
You dont find the connection, you dont find a pattern; you dont find the pattern,
you dont catch this killer ever, Rita.

THIRTEEN
2007
'One.' Chota Mathur, followed by Takla Mathur, rushed into Rita's office before the hour
was over. 'There is one common number in Suri and Lele's contact list; it is listed as
"Ganesh" in one and "DVD Hegde" in the other.'
Rita's careworn face suddenly lit up, she even gave the two a smile. Some hope was
tangible. At last. She was reminded of Ockham's razor sometimes the simplest
answer is the right answer; the first overlap in phone books could, maybe, determine
the killer.
'Who is it?'
'Not sure you'd be interested. The number listed is for a DVD rental shop in Juhu.'
'I want every detail on the proprietor of this shop.'
"Ganesh Hegde, age 53, r/o Borivili West; married with one son, one daughter
both NRIs now. Worked for Life Insurance Corporation of India, retired at 40,
opened a VHS, VCD rental in 1994, graduated to DVD rentals in late-Nineties.
Been questioned twice by police on complaints by parents for renting out
pornographic films to their kids but acquitted both times for lack of evidence;
the search of the premises did not unearth any illegal films in his possession."
Rita read the rsum carefully. Strange. For fucksake, why would someone living in
Delhi carry the telephone number of a Mumbai DVD rental shop?
'Vikram,' she called the Ops Room, 'I need you in my office, please.' Vikram came on
the double.
'Sit.' Rita handed Ganesh Hegde's resume to Vikram. 'Did Samir Suri ever reside in
Mumbai?'
'No ma'am, our investigation didnt reveal his domicile in Mumbai at any point. He
travelled to the city, but never set up residence here.
'Why would someone who's never lived in Mumbai except in hotels while
visiting on business store the telephone number of a local DVD rental store?' man.'
'I think I know.'
'Enlighten me.'
'Ma'amI could be totally off the track, but my guess is that Hegde could be a front
'For what?'
'For drugs, hawala, call girls...most of the so-called respectful businessmen don't
want to contact the dealer or panderer directly for this very reason what if their
phones are ever tapped or lost or, as in these two cases, found alongside their corpses.'

'I get it. He takes the order and passes it on for, whatever.'
It was the second instance where hawala had popped its ugly face up.
'Ask Jatin to call MTNL and the mobile company, and request them to provide us
with Hegde's telephone records for the past two months. Check if Hegde is at the shop
today without him getting a scent of this.' Rita paused to look at her watch that read 4:21
p.m. 'If he is at the shop, let's pay him a visit today.'
Vikram drove as Rita looked out at the Arabian Sea. The sun was setting like a giant red
ball diving into the sea in ultra slow motion, millimetre by millimetre. Mumbai traffic
reduced speed to an average of ten, maybe fifteen, kilometres per hour. It was nearing 7
p.m. when Rita and Vikram parked.
Ganesh Hegde was as stereotypical as any stereotype paan-chewing, potbellied
Mumbai shopkeeper could be. With a pockmarked face, thick upturned pig-like nose and
such dimensions of a head that could put a watermelon to shame. God is funny. Hegdes
red teeth were a living testimony to the reason that the British decided to colour the
Indian Railway carriages rusty-red; any other colour and people like him would have
painted them red with their paan-infused spitting. He had just mouthed a fresh paan out
of his GH monogrammed shiny silver case when Rita and Vikram walked into his shop:
a modest ten feet glass frontage that led to a rather long and L-shaped shop with
purpose-built shelves on both sides that displayed the latest films from both Bollywood
and Hollywood. Hegde sat behind the high counter near the doorway, appreciating the
cold blast from the air-conditioning right behind his vast backside. There were a few
customers browsing the shelves. To Ganesh Hegde, Rita and Vikram appeared like
another couple that had walked in looking for some film for the evening, though he didn't
recognise them. He had, now, been running this shop long enough and knew most of his
regulars, at least, by their faces if not their names or addresses. A new account, he was
pleased.
As per their script, the two police officers took in the shop, browsed the films before
they saw Hegde questioningly staring at them.
'Mr Ganesh Hegde?' Rita walked up to the counter and enquired softly.
'Yes madam, but I never see you before. New to area, eh?' Hegde started in his
fractured English.
'Yes. We'd like to talk to you,' Rita responded, looking back. Vikram was right
behind her.
'Here, the form. Just fill the details and sign. Do you have pen?'
'We want to speak to you regarding something else.'
'Ahawhat regarding Madam '
'Rita Ferreira. DCP Rita Ferreira, and this is Senior Inspector Vikram Patil from
Crime
Branch, Mumbai Police.' Rita showed him her ID badge. Vikram flashed his card
too. 'Police?' Hegde's face turned red; with stray grey hair on top of his massive head, he
resembled a giant rotund ember on a tandoor. The name sounded familiar, but his brain
could not index it. 'What now? Did you not get the hafta I pay regular?'

Hafta: another quintessential Mumbai business. Or was it countrywide? Protection


money paid to corrupt cops and gangsters on a weekly basis. Why would a DVD rental
shop owner pay hafta to the cops if he did nothing unlawful? The thought raced across
both the police brains in unison.
'Could we talk somewhere private, Mr Hegde?'
Hegde presaged this was something different, more sinister. No one above the rank
of a constable normally turned up at his shop for money. A DCP, that too from the Crime
Branch, visiting his shop had to be more ominous than hafta collection. Raid? Why had
he uttered that?
'Madam, don't worry. Go, have party. I talk Inspector, we settle. OK?'
'No, you not talk to Inspector,' Rita responded in Hegde's dialect. 'All of us talk.
Private, you understand, Mr Hegde?' She didn't raise her voice, but the tone was
enough for Hegde to comprehend his usual tactics weren't working.
Hegde nodded, then hailed his shop assistant an insipid looking girl no more than
twenty, wearing a sari with a scanty blouse to look after the shop as he had guests that
he was taking to his office. Hegde followed his fat belly, Rita and Vikram followed him
into the dogleg at the rear of the shop; an area that was behind the shop adjacent to
Hegde's, which was closed to someone approaching from the street. Taking a few films
off the display unit, Hegde pressed a code and part of the shelf revolved to make way to
his office. The closed neighbouring shop was, in fact, Mr Hegde's secret chamber with
access from inside his shop. He switched on the lights to reveal his small but pompous
office. Two faux leather sofas, a DVD player, a television it didn't take Rita and
Vikram more than a second to realise what this was primarily used for: it was a smallish
mock theatre for private viewing, and Hegde didn't appear the kind who enjoyed
watching Ben Hur in private.
'Please sit,' he requested benignly. 'Coffee, tea or soft drink?' His pleading eyes
didn't leave the DCP for a second.
'We don't need anything.'
'How can that be madam, you're guest and guest is God; you come to my shop for the
first time '
'Sit down, Mr Hegde.'
Hegde slumped into the sofa facing Rita and Vikram, without any further argument. 'I
promise madam, there is nothing illegal in my shop, I stop stocking any illegal film years
ago... No more porn, promise,' Hegde erupted without any prompting. 'I not do hankypanky madam. I family man '
'Hegde.' Rita consciously dropped the mister. 'Why do you pay hafta to police if you
don't have any illegitimate business?'
'Madam, you know...' He turned to Vikram for help. 'Sir, you explain madam,
policeman very corrupt, they demand money.'
'Talk to me Hegde. Sir will not help. Why?'
'Madam, you very strict. I pay so local gangs don't bother me and my business.'
'What all businesses do you have, Hegde?

'DVD madam, rent DVD, sometime sell. No other business.'


'Are you sure Hegde? If I find out anything?'
'Madam, I am a God-fearing man. No business, but DVD.'
'Drugs, ganja...?'
'What you say madamme, ganja? Never.'
'Sure?'
'Swear on Lord Shiva.'
'Hawala?'
'No madam, please don't accuse me wrong things, I am holy man.' Hegde, once again,
turned to Vikram. 'Sir, please tell madam, I am gentleman.'
'And how do you think I know that?' Vikram asked. 'True, but you ask Juhu police
station.'
'The ones you give hafta to?' Rita sneered. It wasn't a joke and she wasn't amused;
the smile was to convey her reprehension.
'What madam, you asking unnecessary questions. We are friends.'
Tom and Jerry friends, yeah right! Rita wanted to slap Hegde but she controlled
herself. 'Hegde, if you want I can come here with a brass band of police sirens to ask
you the same questions, and I know you wouldn't want that.' She raised her voice, came
down heavily like a desperate cloud that hadn't poured for a while. Two corpses down,
Mumbai at its edge, the only commonality they had uncovered was this telephone
number, and Hegde was pretending to be holier than the Ganges.
There has to be some pattern Rita
'Madam, I tell you '
'Enough said, Hegde.' Rita got up and, towered over sitting Hegde, placed her right
hand on his fat shoulder firmly. 'I give you one last chance or I call Juhu Police Station,
and I'll get you fucked so hard you'll regret you were ever born. Do you fucking
understand that Hegde or do I need to get your ass whipped?'
Hegde was dumbfounded. He hadn't experienced anyone talking to him in that tone,
least of all a woman. His mammoth face reddened more, eyes blinked. It seemed like he
was about to break down like a fat schoolboy who was bullied by a girl.
'Madam
'Stop that bloody drama Hegde, and answer me.'
'Yes madam.'
'Do you know someone by the name of Adit Lele?'
Hegde was only nervous till now, Lele's name alarmed him. 'Who?' he meowed.
'Call the Juhu SHO, Vikram. Hegde needs some severe treatment.'
'Mr Lele love Hindi movie...he come often, rent movie...now I remember.'
'What else?'
'Sometime ask 3X movie madam. He alone, he want it, why bother?'
'But you don't keep porn, you just said.'
'Sometime I get from friend to keep regular client happy, madam.'
'You know Samir Suri?'

'No.'
Suris name had bells clanging in Hegdes brain. He suddenly realised he knew both
the names the DCP had mentioned; he had received calls from these guys in the past
week, and then read about their gruesome murders, albeit he hadn't pondered if the two
incidents were connected. Till now.
'Why would he have your contact details in his mobile phone?'
'I am best DVD shop madam.'
'So good that people from Delhi contact you?'
'Joking madam...' Hegde made a feeble attempt to smile, but his smile lacked any
conviction.
'So you don't know Samir Suri?'
'No.' Hegde chose to continue with his lies.
'I know you didn't play cricket with him. But does the name sound familiar Hegde?'
'No.'
Lying bastard, Rita knew.
'Adit Lele and Samir Suri died in the last week. Both had your telephone number,
and only your telephone number in common in their phone contacts. Can you think why?'
'So many men die. So many rent films. How I know? And how I be blame if people
die with my telephone number?'
'If they die...but what if both of them were murdered.'
Fuck. Hegde wished the earth would part and swallow him right this moment. Was
she implicating him in their murders? This sounded grave, certainly more serious than
renting out porn. He gulped hard, his Adams apple jumped up and down inadvertently
like it was on an invisible trampoline.
'You supplied girls?'
Hegde looked blankly at Rita. There was a slight hesitation, which Rita noticed.
Why?
Truth shouldn't need consulting the brain; it should just spill out.
Hegde was thinking; thinking what he could say to get out of the mess. The DCP had
got to him. She was closing in on the reason. How much did she actually know?
'I am talking to you Hegde. Answer me.' Rita's annoyance was evident in her voice;
the tone had got astringent too.
'Yes.'
'Yes, what?'
'You know it madam.'
'I know nothing about you, holy man, except that you are a motherfucking liar. You
were the one who provided girls to these two men, so you tell me.'
'Yes madam. I make contact to girls.'
'Did Lele or Suri ask you to get them a fuck last week?'
'Yes madam.'
The fear in Hegde's eyes was overt, like a deer cornered by a pack of wolves. He
conceded having taken orders from both Lele and Suri to provide girls to them.

'Which days?'
Hegde looked at the ceiling trying to recollect. After some calculation, he uttered the
precise dates. Dates that made Rita and Vikram exchange glances, because those were
the dates that Adit Lele and Samir Suri were murdered. So Lele and Suri weren't in the
wrong place at the wrong time. They were targeted.
'Now, would you be kind enough to tell us which girl did you send to meet Lele and
Suri on those days, Hegde?'
'Oh madam, I not pimp. I take and pass order to someone '
'Who is that someone? I need a name Hegde. Now.' Rita's subarctic voice left no
room for any concessions or debate.
'Malti.'
'Malti? Who Malti?
Ganesh Hegde's phone was confiscated, his, self-proclaimed, best DVD shop in town
was closed for the day recognising the fact that customers would have to make do
with the second-best or watch some soap on television. Juhu police, the shop area being
in their bailiwick, was called to escort Hegde to the police station for a statement. There
was no apparent reason, as of now, to take him into custody, but in light of the name he
had revealed, the police couldn't bank on him not divulging this to Malti to forewarn her
if he was left on his own. And maybe he knew more than he had spilled out. In which
case it was necessary for his security.
'What do you think?' Rita asked when Vikram and she drove out after Juhu Police took
Hegde away.
'He's a shrewd guy. He tried to lie first, but recanted when he realised you weren't
buying his tripe. Juhu police will make him talk for sure; they know how to make such
unscrupulous people spill their foul guts. But I am not sure how much he knows though.'
Smart guy. Interpreting people and reading clues required the same skill set, Rita
always believed. And Vikram seemed to have it.
'I have no idea how these filthy businesses run. Can't say how embroiled Hegde was
in this, but let's hope we get some pointers from him.'
'Let's hope for the best.'
Why dont you take my Gypsy and Ill call for the duty car tomorrow morning?
Are you planning to go to Juhu Police Station all by yourself maam?
Oh yes, things have started slippingI am sorry. Why dont you pick me up at seven
tomorrow morning? We can go to the police station together and then go back to
Crawford Market.
That will be fine maam.
I forgot one more thing. We were supposed to brief Jatin about unclassified
information to pass on to Anita Raizada. We need to give them dope to feed the killers
appetite. My worry is that in absence of anything from us, her idiot boss Narang might
use his birdbrain to publish something stupid.
Do you want to call Jatin? Vikram peeked at the time on the dashboard. 10:15.

Forget it. Lets give them something tomorrow. Maybe we have some masala-news by
the morningwho knows?
Despite the full moon, clouds had blacked out the night and the moon appeared like a
torch burning on weak batteries behind thick curtains. The traffic had eased but Mumbai
being Mumbai, there was still rafts of it. Cars, buses, trucks, taxis, auto-rickshaws,
scooters, cycles, and when they turned into residential Bandra pedestrians.
Somewhere amongst these million faces, Rita reckoned, was the face of the killer she
was looking for. The trouble was that deviants didn't necessarily appear different. The
assailant could very much be a normal nine-to-five office bloke, someone who lived
with his family, wife, kids in a respectable neighbourhood, using public transport with a
million others in the city and no one would ever guess. The human mind had a wider
spectrum than an ocean: the feelings, the emotions, the fears, the reasoning, and,
sometimes, the aberrations that misguided the perplexed mind. Agreed that Ashs
interpretation that the killer taking away body parts potentially pigeonholed him as being
a loner, but it wasnt a fact; it was a surmise. Although it might only marginally be better,
but, nevertheless still better, if the killer lived with someone and, that someone
whoever it was could spot some abnormal behaviour and come forward. It was a farfetched thought, but still a positive one. As far as both the victims were concerned, Lele
and Suri were as different as apes from apples in terms of age, addresses, marital status.
The only common thread was that they were both males with above average incomes,
and knew a DVD rental shop owner, and had sex with hookers. Hardly any connection
that.
It wasn't a banal, everyday situation; hell, it was her first encounter with a serial
killer. The investigation so far had found Ganesh Hegde, and the probability of finding
the killer, at this moment, was not any greater than crossing the Atlantic in a paper boat.
There you are maam. Vikrams voice made Rita realise they were parked in front
of her apartment block.
Thank you so much, Vikram. Cant offer you dinner, but youre welcome for coffee.
Thanks maam, but I shall rush. Hadnt told the wife about the delay.
Why didnt you call her? Drive carefully, and I shall see you tomorrow morning at
seven. Good night.
Good night.
Rita changed, took a shower, scrambled a couple of eggs and putting them on toast
noshed the sandwich. It was fifteen minutes to eleven. She dialled Ash Mattels number.
Ash picked up the phone on the first ring. Hi, missing me Commissioner? he
bantered.
Deputy Commissioner, and I am not missing you. I took a chance, thought you might
be asleep by now
Havent slept a wink since I saw you, gorgeous.
Did they not teach you better chat-up lines in London? Cambridge, I went to
Cambridge. What are you wearing?
If you are through with your sleazy one-liners, I wanted to discuss something

regarding the case.'


Ohcome out with it. Found something?
Rita narrated the discovery of the common telephone number on the two victims
mobile phones, meeting Ganesh Hegde, his admission of being a tele-pimp for some
woman called Malti, and that he had taken bookings for hookers for the two guys on their
respective fateful nights.
See, Ash sounded excited. 'I told you there would be something common which
might form some pattern. I am not saying this Malti woman or some boyfriend of hers is
the murderer, but I am confident it might give you some pointer that should give your
investigation some direction.'
Hmmmnot sure how at the moment, but well see tomorrow. By the way, if youre
free tomorrow afternoon, we could catch up.
I could come tonight if you want.
Ash, stop it. Rita was surprised that her voice didnt sound annoyed. Was she
beginning to like his cheesy flirting?
I am not free tomorrow afternoon, but I can meet in the evening. Dinner? Sure
thing. Give me a call when youre free and we shall meet. Good night.
Good night sweetheart, dream about me.
Juhu Police grilled Hegde regarding the murders. He wasn't a suspect yet, but hadn't
been ruled out as one either. And though he claimed that he merely passed information to
some woman called Malti, it did not absolve him of any other involvement. Hegde's
story could well be bunkum, rendered on the spot to save his skin when he got cornered.
In any case, everyone lied even when they knew for certain that there was little chance
of escaping, probably, only to postpone the retribution or humiliation, to save face for
the moment. Hegde could certainly bolt if not watched. And what if there was no Malti?
There wasn't one for the police till they actually got to her.
Hegde succumbed to the police questioning. In some other circumstances, like a
minor offence, he would have paid his way through the mess, but this was different on
two accounts. It was murder, and if that wasn't critical enough, since the enquiry was run
by the Crime Branch, the local lower-ranking hafta taking cops were rendered helpless.
When provided with no alternative, Hegde perhaps to clear himself detailed the
intricacies of the illicit prostitution racket that plagued Mumbai. Girls were, of course,
available all around the city and catered to every pocket. Most men with money had
some sort of social obligation business, family, partners, electorate, customers and
their pretentious faade could shatter if their associates knew they hired hookers. That
was where unassuming intermediaries like Hegde stepped in; the prospective whoreseekers contacted people in unrelated trades who took bookings and relayed the
messages for a commission. Thus, if in any eventuality something could be traced back,
it would only lead to a DVD rental store and not to some house of ill repute.
Unfortunately, Lele and Suri hadn't been caught simply with their pants down, they
had been killed and the ripples of murder had compelled the police to dig deeper than
usual.

Hegde confessed he was, in fact, a commission agent for two clubs, but on these two
instances Malti was the one he had passed on the clients. No amount of coercion by
police yielded any information on who the top dog of the outfit was. Hegde wasn't
privileged enough to know that. He dealt with Malti or Julie the other club's Madame
who were the managers of the businesses.
No, he had never met Malti or Julie or even knew where either one operated from.
One Mr Kalia had contacted him many years previously. No, he had never met him
again, didn't know where Kalia was now; it had been a one-off meeting. Only verbal
agreement and phone numbers were exchanged.
Describing Mr Kalia wasnt possible. Hegde wasn't the first witness who was
unable to describe a person. Many witnesses failed even if they have met a person
several times and after having had a good look at the person; Hegde, to be fair, had met
Kalia once, years ago.
Based on the number of clients Hegde passed to either club in a month, he received
his commission in cash in a single-sealed envelope, dropped into his shop after closing
hours, which indicated that either the two clubs were controlled by the same person or
group or they shared the courier. But, he had never bothered to ask Malti or Julie. Why
should he care?
Juhu Police was convinced Hegde wasn't involved in the murders, but he might have
inadvertently abetted the acts. However, there was no evidence to suggest that Lele and
Suri died because they had sought girls through Hegde; that Hegde's telephone number
was the only apparent commonality did not, in any way, suggest there wasn't another
overlap that the police hadnt yet discovered.
DCP Rita Ferreira had instructed Juhu Police to merely obtain information from
Hegde, but not to approach Malti or whoever under any circumstances. And as such, all
they had now were names of two women and their pay-as-you-go mobile numbers,
which, when checked, the mobile operator had no addresses for. Their request to the
mobile operator to track these people by their mobile telephone co-ordinates was
courteously declined: It requires a Court Order.
With no addresses and possibly fake names, how could anyone even start the search
for two women in the Mumbai-haystack of eighteen million homo sapiens?

FOURTEEN
1990
The Berlin Wall had fallen a year back, but the Russians or Americans hadn't built a
road from this bordello in Bombay to Moscow. Glasnost had been a lazy word; it came
to the forefront, into a meaningful existence, long after Viviane had any aspirations left to
escape. Jay Desai she had named her son after the father was four years old.
Pathak agreed to let the boy live in his mother's tiny room, and stay there if his being in
the room didnt offend the clients while they humped Viviane, not realising that weirdos
cherished fornicating with the mother in the presence of the son.
Junior as he had come to be known in the whorehouse matured faster than
other boys his age. The young eyes, in despair, witnessed his mum on the job, being
balled up by strange men, in deviate ways; each indelible mark being recorded
inadvertently in the infantile mind.
In a few years, Junior would understand things, ask questions, throw tantrums, maybe
even resist tricks coming in; Pathak was edgy. He made it clear to Viviane: Two more
years and the guy goes to Moscow or to some orphanage.
It was a chilling thought, but Viviane, in time, understood that he was right. Did she
want her son to watch various degenerates sometimes up to four or five in a day or
night stripping his mother, degrading her? An orphanage wasn't the best solution, but
Moscow wasn't even an option. Who would the boy go back to? Her drunken father? The
way he used to drink would he be still alive, somewhere? Where? And supposing
that he was alive, what would the boy go back and say my mother is a high-class
whore, ergo I have come to live with you? And though she loved Junior, and had loved
his father enough to carry the child, she realised her mistakes of falling in love, of
having a baby. But even a mug could be an Einstein with the benefit of hindsight. Too
late, Viviane.
It wasn't the immediate concern of sending the boy to the orphanage that bothered
Viviane: in fact, that would be better as he would get some education, social skills, have
a life. It was the long-term consequences that troubled her the what ifs: what if, when
he grew up and found out his mother was alive and a hooker and he was forced to
live in an orphanage? What if he never found out about his mother, wouldn't she lose him
forever? Margaret was there to support. However, what did Margaret know? She wasnt
the mother; she could never have the same feelings for Junior.
If Viviane had a crystal ball, she would know she didnt need to fret. Kismet was
doing the thinking for her.
It wasn't the first time, but it was rare in case of Viviane than others in the house. Pathak

discouraged clients to take Viviane out. Who would look after the little bastard? But,
this was business. If a patron insisted on a girl, and insisted on taking her out or calling
her to his place, she had to go. The son could watch any of the other tarts though only
Margaret allowed him into her room getting shagged or sit in the anteroom with the
pimps.
That call on a cold January evening wasn't for Viviane. It was a debauched
henchman of a local politician looking for Jenny another girl who was,
unfortunately, booked elsewhere. The loaded patron was looking for a petite, faircoloured piece for the night at his Worli residence. Viviane fitted in.
A fawn faux leather cinch belt gave her an attractive shape, emphasising the narrow
waist, accentuating her breasts and derrire. The rest of the short, black clinging chiffon
dress hardly required imagination. The tan knee-highs, and that short dress, unmistakably
with nothing underneath the pervert had insisted labelled her: I am a hustler.
Viviane, hardened with time in the profession, was unfazed, unafraid, unashamed of
being a high-class whatever determined class in their profession? hooker.
Pathak had drivers for home delivery of pieces. Thapa the Nepalese driver in
mid- fifties, five-feet six, and henna-coloured hair with pockmarks on his face was
ugly and daunting. He whistled as Viviane sat in the car.
'I am saving rupee, he said in an eclectic mix of English, Hindi and Nepalese. 'For?'
'To ride you once. Pathak bhai told me he will give big discount.'
Viviane smiled. She had never heard of Pathak giving any employee a discount on a
girl. And none dared to touch any girl without his permission.
It was nearly 7 p.m. when Thapa drove Viviane to the Worli Sea Face residence,
opened the door for her to climb out from the car, like a gentleman and winked as she
passed him, filling his nostrils with her perfume and stirring his loins. She smiled,
winked back.
Pointless, he told himself. Aloud, he said, 'I see you here at nine tomorrow morning
missy. Give the guy good time.'
Viviane pressed the buzzer on the ground floor and waited for entry into the building.
Someone must have watched her from the flat on the first floor, she reckoned, to unlatch
the main entrance to the block without quizzing. She decided against the small elevator
and took the two flights to the first floor. The black lacquered door opened the moment
she got in from of it.
'Good evening, Mr Kumar.'
'Come on in,' the client said, closing the door behind him.
Raja Kumar was a forty-three-old stinking rich pervert. Twice divorced, both times
on grounds of promiscuity. His first wife of three years paid a sleuth after being tipped
off by a common friend, and Sherlock came back within a week with a comprehensive
report on Kumar with photographic evidence of him and two women in a threesome.
Kumar settled the case by paying an undisclosed amount large enough to quieten his
wife. His second wife accidentally walked in on him and his friend with a floosie
engaging in rubber and latex. This case, too, did not go to trial. Kumar did another out-

of-court settlement, parting with heaps of cash again, but he still had enough left from
what his father had left him. Realising no wife could stay young forever, and he having a
predilection for young girls, Kumar decided to stay single. He wasn't romantic, brainy or
brawny a rather nondescript man with a mousy face on a thin balding head, but he
was politically connected, loaded, and neither minded paying for his trysts nor cared for
who he shagged as long as she was young and pretty. And Viviane was pretty-pretty.
Kumar was undressed and in a dressing gown, sipping some spirit. 'I'm Raja.'
Educated accent. Quite a contrast from what Viviane had heard in the car. Ready to
fuck already, she wanted to ask, but heard herself saying. Hi Raja, I'm '
'Shhh...I dont need to know your name. Drink?'
'Gin and tonic, please.'
Apartment was a misnomer for this Worli Sea Face residence. It was a palace. She
walked behind him from the broad hallway into the living room that housed a bar in the
far corner. The ostentatious dcor, probably by some interior designer, had a certain lack
of something, the lack of a womanly touch that could make it a home. Kumar's taste was
very apparent: oils on walls: nude, sculptures in bronze and marble: nudes; some tasteful
and pleasant, others blatant and crass, even obscene.
He walked to the bar as she stood gaping at the size of the room with high ceilings
that held a huge chandelier with pieces of crystals at the ends that looked like melting
icicles, each reflecting a tiny rainbow at some wall of the room, blissfully unaware he
had slipped some pill in her drink. He came back with drinks in both hands and gave one
to her.
'You ready for the night?' She nodded, took a sip. 'Strip for me baby.'
Viviane looked around for something to keep her glass on, but he held out his hand
and took it from her.
'Wow. Baby change of plan,' he said when she was stark naked.
Viviane looked up inquiring with her eyes, taking the drink from his hand and taking
a large sip.
'Finish it. Let me get you another one and then I'll tell.' His empty hand was on her
buttocks now.
Halfway through the second drink, she felt a bit drunk. No, she was dizzy. 'You
making strong drinks Raja. What is the plan?'
'You ever had a gangbang?'
She had sped through her second drink and with fear in her eyes, she uttered a weak
no. She knew she should run. But it was too late.
'Good. It's a first time for you then.' He grabbed her hair and pulled her closer to
him. From the far-reaching angle of her eye, Viviane saw four guys hastily undressing,
like sharks who had scented blood. They walked into the room and circled around her.
Viviane was kicked out of the flat, literally, like a toy discarded by rich brats at nine in
the morning. Thapa was alertly looking at the door when it opened. He saw Viviane,
shaken. She was a mess, and seemed to have aged a decade in the night. She saw the blur
of the parked car through a cascade in her brimming eyes, but there wasn't any reaction.

She found it impossible to focus; the drug, the alcohol and pain were overpowering. She
tried to hold on to the baluster to climb down the last two steps to the car, but tripped
and fell forward. Thapa had figured she needed support and rushed in time to hold her.
'What happened missy? You OK?' He picked her up and carried her to the car. 'Want
me to go in and '
She held his hand. Tears flooded down her face, some tricked into the mouth, others
ran down her neck. She shook her head. No.
'Tell me what happened Missy.'
'Do me a favour, will you?'
'Anything.' The man was choking with emotion. 'Take me to a police station please.'
'You serious? Think what Pathak bhai will say.'
'Please,' Viviane said with trembling lips. 'I'll do anything you want later.'
He smiled. Smiling has been so well ingrained in our disposition it is sometimes
involuntary. No wonder it expressed good, evil, sadness, happiness, lust, truth and lies.
Thapa smiled as a realisation of his lecherous comment the night before, not at the
thought of seducing Viviane.
'Okay missy, sit tight.'
Thapa got fired after being beaten up by Pathaks men for his reckless decision of not
consulting Pathak bhai before he took Viviane to the police. It meant Pathak would have
to shift many women out of the place immediately some were underage, some
illegally in the country and be prepared for an enormous cash outflow.
Margaret pleaded, other girls argued, Pathak threatened when Viviane wanted to
press gangrape charges. A hooker raped? It would be a mockery of Viviane and spell
doom for Pathak. But Viviane was determined; she had some Desai money stashed, and
decided to spend it on bringing Kumar and his friends to justice. Justice? She didnt care
what the consequences might be; she was nauseated recalling what the five men had
done to her the night before. She didn't want it ever to happen again, not even to any
other girl.

FIFTEEN
2007
From the corner of her eye, Rita spotted a lean figure, draped in white from top to
bottom that shone in stark contrast to the dark night, dart across and disappear before she
could take a careful look. She suddenly became aware she was by herself on this wet
tree-lined road, which she couldnt recognise. There were, thankfully, a few cars on the
pavement that showed the place to be inhabited. The figure in white, she concluded, must
have surreptitiously sneaked behind one of the thick tree trunks. It was a strange place,
eerie in a way, and she couldn't remember, at all, why she was here. Oddly, now the
figure in white fluttered much ahead of her; then it was almost twenty trees ahead of her.
How?
They say one never dreams in deep sleep.
The telephone ring transported Rita from her nightmare into the tangible world.
Nightmares, like dreams, know no bounds in fact, some languages, like Hindi,
don't even make the distinction; adjectives are used to discriminate between the good
and the bad dreams nightmares don't have to follow a structure or care about
limitations. But Rita's nightmares, she had noticed, were somehow always followed by
some bad news. The telephone ring at this hour didn't sound promising either. It was an
unearthly 4:43 a.m. If she hadnt been in police service, Rita swore she would take the
telephone off the cradle every night. Not another murder she prayed before picking up
the phone.
'Sleeping alone?' the affected female voice asked confidently. 'Who is it?' Rita was
still in a stupor.
'I thought you were the one looking for me, DCP Ferreira.' The voice was muffled,
like someone trying to disguise it.
'Who is that?' Rita annoyingly asked. She was wide awake now. The voice, and the
comment, sounded ominous.
'Now, now, now...calm down, DCP. I am, oh, I can't tell you who I am. That's your
job. I can tell you what I've done though. I killed those two dogs.'
'Which dogs?'
'Lele, Suri, remember?'
'WhatI meanhow do I know you're the killer?' Believe me DCP.
Believe a voice at the other side of a phone? You dont think I am still at
kindergarten, do you?
You will have to trust me.
How do I know you are him?

'Her...can't you hear I am a woman? As for how to attest I killed them, I can send you
Suri's dismembered dick. You might need it since Karan is no longer with you.'
The voice had obviously done her research. She was playing games with Rita
fearlessly. Cat and mouse? Why did it surprise Rita? The police hadn't got any closer to
the killer, there wasnt much in the media after two murders, and hence he or she must
have decided to get closer to the police.
Every serial killer's dark, secret craving, always, is to get caught. Ego, surreal
ego. They are hardly ever discreet, knowing well that the sought-after glory also
periled them.
'Is it a confession Miss '
'Nice try, DCP. If I were you, I'd take it as a challenge.'
Was the voice thinking her call would attenuate Rita's resolve? On the contrary, it
would only intensify her efforts, now that she was challenged.
'If it's a challenge to me, why are you killing innocent people?'
'Their innocence could be a misgiving, who knows? In any case, it's you Miss
infallible who's failing to protect them. Now, you can't blame me for your inefficiencies,
can you?'
'Listen...' Rita attempted in a negotiating tone.
'No. I made the call, so you listen to me DCP. I promise Ill listen to you if you
decipher my number. There was an uneasy silence for a minute. Have you ever played
chess DCP?
'Way back in school, why?'
'They say if you can guess your opponents move, its an easy game. So let me squash
your next move then. Your control room will not be able to identify me based on this
call.' The voice conveyed a for-your-information tone.
'Why are you doing this?'
'That, again, is for you to figure out. But you have disappointed me by not
forewarning me that you would be taking poor Ganesh Hegde to a police station. He is
no good.'
'How do you ?
'I know everything DCP. Dont forget, this is my show and you are merely a
spectator. And now that youve inadvertently bought the ticket to my show, you must sit
comfortably and watch. Or you can run as much as you want, but you cant ruin my plan.
Wait a min The line was dead.
Rita was rattled at how much the voice knew. Her unlisted number, though that
wasnt so difficult to get hold of. About Karan? Her personal information had somehow
been compromised. A small compromise, but compromise just the same. Hegde been
taken to the police station...how did the caller know that? It had only been hours. Hell,
even the media didn't have any inkling about Hegde. Hegde couldnt have called; he had
been in police custody since the evening. What could be a better alibi than that? Some
mole at Juhu Police Station? Rita could feel her annoyance rise uncontrollably, like a
tide. The voice certainly knew more than Rita could have imagined. How? And the killer

had the audacity to call the chief of the investigation. Her mind raced all around to
remember if she had seen anything odd, any unknown face in the building when Vikram
had dropped her the night before. Had she missed it? Take a hold of yourself Rita, her
wit argued even if there was, it could be someone's guest don't turn into a
xenophobic even if you saw some new faces. You live in an apartment block, not in
some private mansion like Shahrukh Khan.
And the voice had planned the call indeed. Chess or no chess, the killer wouldn't
have called from a personal line. What baffled Rita was that the killer was planning the
whole nine yards, calculating the police's probable next moves. It was alarming.
Insidious, actually.
But why in a female voice?
This was the third incident where the killer had endeavoured to mislead them into
thinking he was a female when both the killings had male imprinted all over them.
Female killers had always in theory and in past cases shown a tendency to use a
conniving method to eliminate men; poisoning the victims was the preferred choice.
Female serial killers manifestly murdered inside their homes, and mainly for money,
though some were known to commit murders for attention. But nothing valuable had been
found missing in the two cases reported. There had also been an incomplete medical
research that most such women, with killer tendencies, suffered from something called
Mnchausen syndrome but that, too, couldnt provide any conclusive direction; for the
most part, such cases of women having this syndrome might either not report or not get
diagnosed. Rita, not wanting to take chances, made a mental note to send out a circular to
all police stations across Mumbai asking to report back any cases of the syndrome
reported. But she knew she couldn't depend on that.
A lot was atypical of a female serial killer there this woman was murdering
outside her home, not poisoning but brutally murdering the victims, though after drugging
them, and using canards to hoodwink the police.
Rita cast the theory aside; past never took any guarantees of future in any event. She
considered that the theory that most serial killers were men could be hyperbolic too. It
wasn't even falsifiable anymore, with numerous female offenders on record; the fabled
green swan could well exist in this case: the fact that you hadnt come across a female
serial killer does not mean that there were none. Besides, what about cold cases? And
despite the numerous conspiracy theories, who was Jack the Ripper?
Rita knew too well that the voice would have used an untraceable line; it was so
characteristic, so very tiredly banal of the killer to think Rita would go on a futile hunt.
But Rita did exactly what the killer had wanted.
She called the control room to see if they could trace the call that had been made to
her unlisted official telephone.
To catch a thief...she reflected on the much clichd maxim. However, in this case,
the killer was the one thinking like a detective. An ex-cop? Or maybe someone who had
read too much detective fiction?
It was turning into a race of who reached whom first. The DCP had certainly lost in

heats. It was time to train better. She stopped to think if she should call Ash. It was 5
a.m.
She called Vikram. 'All OK, ma'am?'
'We have a problem. The killer knows we've got Hegde.' Rita narrated the call she
had got a few minutes previously.
'How can that be possible?'
'We have a leak, I can't think of any other possibility. Speak to the SHO at Juhu
Police Station. See you at seven.
Getting back to sleep, though desirable, was difficult. Rita's body needed it, but her
brain barred it.
Sleep. Wake. Sleep. Wake. bed.
6 a.m. Another day. She had slept sporadically in the last hour. It was time to leave
her
It was morning enough to call Ash.
Ash was a bit groggy when he picked up the phone, but he came alive the moment
Rita started recounting the telephone call she had received only a couple of hours
back. 'You should have called me rightaway.' Ash's voice indicated his concern.
'And what would you have done right then?' Rita attempted to disguise the stress.
'Stop being frivolous. Can't you see killing is his ide fixe, and obsession doesnt
discriminate between criminals and coppers.'
'You think he might come after me?'
'Might?' He let out a chuckle. 'I thought you were smarter than that.'
'Appearances can be deceptive.' Rita was trying hard to remain calm.
'I take back my compliments to your smartness, but stop kidding yourself. He will
come after you. I was surprised he hadn't already. He may even be following you. The
risk that you're closing in on him is part fright, part exhilaration to him. And
biologically, both can evoke monovular chemical reaction in the brain, which can make
him dangerous, even life threatening. Remember, killing, to him is identical to some
adventure sport, and you are just another opponent. And though you don't fit the
caricature of the men he's killed so far, you challenge his mission however insane or
grotesque you may consider it it is still his mission. Be alert.'
'Ash, in light of this development, do you want to revise your profile to fit a female?'
'Women kill for a motive, which is absent here.'
'Maybe the motive isn't apparent. That might be one of the many loose ends that need
tying,' Rita pointed out.
'Yes...or this might be an accomplice, not the killer. How confident are you that it
was a female voice. I mean, you said it was a muffled, unnatural voice, didn't you?'
'What are you thinking?'
'There are enough electronics available to guise and modify voices instantaneously.'
'I know that. What I don't know is why is the killer so keen to make us believe he's a
female then?'
'So that you dont look for a male, and he keeps off your radar?' Ash had a valid

argument. The opinion was sensible. And comprehensive.


Why the chicanery to impersonate a woman? The female voice, the lipstick left
behind, the whiff of floral perfume, that perfume; Rita got a sudden flash that she had got
a faint smell of the same or similar perfume somewhere else. Where? Rita contemplated
as she switched off her cordless phone. But before she could push further into her brain
to retrieve where else she had come across the fragrance that she had smelt at the site of
the first murder, the phone rang again.
'Have you seen NEWS of the DAY this morning ma'am?' It was Jatin Singh. 'Anything
I need to know?'
'You'd better look at it yourself.'
'I know we had to give them a briefing last evening, but I got totally occupied by the
case.' Rita narrated the evening's meeting with Hegde, and the subsequent call in the
night. 'Did you give Anita any info?'
'No ma'am. Anita had called last evening, but I told her to hold on for another day.
She wasn't ruffled, she said they could fill up the pages without being specific about the
case '
'And you don't like what they've filled the columns with?'
'It's nothing wrong or derogatory, neither does it reveal much about the case, but you
seem to have taken over the whole front page.'
'Me?'
It is a strange world. People are unhappy and discontented when they don't get credit for
what they do and Rita was embarrassed when she got a copy of NEWS of the day
by the manner and scale of how the NEWS of the DAY had praised her on her past work
on the single homicide case she had solved in Pune. The editorial disquisition ran
several columns of laudation. She might have apprehended a murderer in Pune, but hey,
she had no clues in this case. This wasn't some fucking zero-sum game. This was about
lives. Making her appear invincible might be the beginning of expectations, and
problems for her. She looked at the by- line: Amit Narang.
Amit Narang was passionate about his newspaper, but his brain was vacant. So
vacant that any random words of wisdom echoed in his ear. In his sheer eagerness to
please DCP Rita Ferreira, Narang dug deep into her past police postings and her
successes, and had plastered the front page of NEWS of the DAY with his sycophantic
renderings. Since when had she become the best detective in the country, as he put it?
With the way the current case was progressing, she could almost taste failure in her dry
mouth. The government should ration ink to the likes of Amit Narang.
Vikram arrived at seven. He had had a word with the Juhu SHO, stressing upon him the
gravity of finding the source of leak in his constabulary: Information regarding Hegde's
questioning has been compromised and it would not be taken lightly by the
Commissioner.
The SHO had recited the gist of their breakthrough with Hegde. They had to hold
back as the Mobile Operator declined to oblige the police with the coordinates of the

mobile numbers. He had given the mobile numbers to Vikram to follow up with a Court
Order. No, they hadn't released Hegde and they needed to know if they should charge
him or release him after forty-eight hours.
'Change of plan Vikram,' Rita told Vikram as he put the Gypsy into gear. 'Let's go to
the HQ, there won't be any more new eggs Hegde can lay on this.'
'Did you see the NEWS of the DAY ma'am?' I was honestly proud that I work for the
best detective in India.'
'It's embarrassing. By the way, do you have the two telephone numbers Hegde gave
to the SHO at Juhu?' Rita pulled out her mobile.
'Yes.' Vikram passed his ubiquitous pad to her.
Rita called up the Operation Room. She knew Jatin was there as he had called
earlier. 'Good morning again, Jatin.' Giving a brief preamble on what she wanted, she
read out the mobile numbers from the little pad Vikram had given her. 'Pass this on to our
legal department, ask them to get us a Court Order first thing when courts open. We need
to know the whereabouts of these numbers.'
Cops have a demanding job: to follow the suspect, while thinking ahead of him. If
the voice that called Rita last night knew Hegde was in the police station, what were the
odds that the mobile number that Hegde had given them would work now?
'I know the numbers won't work now, but I cannot take the risk of calling them from
my mobile. We need to know the location of these phones to apprehend Malti and Julie,'
Rita told Vikram after the call.
Vikram nodded and drove on. Traffic on Marine Drive was building up. The tide, in
the azure Arabian Sea, was high, the wind rough; frothy waves splashed water on the
promenade. The austral winds were carrying pregnant clouds towards the city. The sun
was mild, getting ready to disappear behind dense clouds.
The clouds burst the minute Rita got down outside Crawford Market as if the rain
had decided to rush down to taste her, soak her. She smiled once she was in the building.
Mumbai monsoon was just doing its job. Just like her.
The walls in the Operations Room were plastered with even more scraps of paper,
every bit fighting for space. With a confession from Hegde, new material, names and
numbers had been added since the night before.
The Forensics failed to find any prints from the letter and the SIM received by
Narang at the NEWS of the DAY. Yes, the post stamp established the letter had been
posted near Churchgate Station, but considering the number of people who passed that
place it was futile to imagine someone would have seen or remembered who posted
some letter. The paper used was 75 gms JK Bond, which, again, could provide no
pointers; roughly one in five offices in India used JK Bond in their printers. Any worker
could have taken a few leaves home. Then there were retailer customers. The laser
printer used was Canon. Again, similar overwhelming stats ensured the inquiry didnt
get any direction from that discovery either.
The Court Order to track and provide the co-ordinates of the two mobile numbers
afforded by Hegde turned out to be an equally damp breakthrough. Both the numbers had

been switched off for quite some time. And both numbers were last tracked outside of
Mumbai. The numbers, according to AirMobile, had been used as call-forwarders
before being keyed off. Most illicit activities, Rita knew, took place through
sophisticated and byzantine call-forwarding systems to dodge telephone companies, and
the law. Nothing was easy for anyone in Mumbai. Why would criminals make it easy for
the police?
A disappointed Rita ordered the experts to call the numbers to see if they could
puzzle out anything new. Both calls, if they were picked up, would be recorded,
digitalised, and then broken down to bits and bytes, literally, by specialists to see if they
could unearth anything from the voices, accents, background noises; anything really. It
didn't take long for Rita's fear to come true though. The killer, knowing Hegde had been
apprehended, would have surmised it wouldn't be too difficult for Mumbai Police to
reveal him and had disabled call-forwarding from the two numbers.
'We've been chasing rainbows, it seems...' Nene shrugged his shoulders in
frustration. 'It might seem like that, but we've moved a step forward in the last 24 hours,
I would say.' Rita gestured them to take their seats at the briefing table, reading from
their faces that most hadn't made the leap. 'The fact that the killer called me to convey he
was aware that Hegde had been taken in for questioning, and then disabled the mobile
numbers from forwarding, what does it say to all of you?'
'There is a probable connection between the two?' Chota Mathur uttered
thoughtfully. 'What could be the other probabilities, Inspector Mathur?
'Coincidence?'
'As a detective, the first rule I learnt was to ignore coincidences. At any rate, even if
we think the probability is fifty per cent, it merits a serious investigation. Any more than
fifty per cent and it would be worth going after because it wouldn't be considered wise
to ignore the possibility.'
'I agree,' Chota Mathur acknowledged.
'So, here's the plan. We go after every known pimp, every brothel owner. We ask
uniform police in every locality to uncover all such tele-pimps like Hegde if these
sick bastards pay hafta to local cops, they should be easy to hunt down. Remember, we
aren't sure if Malti or ' Rita paused to recollect the second name.
'Julie,' Chota Mathur scored a point.
'Thanks Mr Mathur, as I was saying Malti and Julie could be fake names, but if the
numbers these tele-pimps had called all along have been disabled now, new ones would
have to be issued, which should be a giveaway. Track down as many of these agents as
you can, divide areas between yourselves. Please press upon the uniforms to work along
with you. Any issues, report back immediately and I shall speak to them personally. Any
questions?'
None.
'Everyone leave, except Vikram, who stays with me. And Jatin,' Rita mentioned as
they started gathering their papers, 'I need you back by 5 p.m. to brief you to brief Anita.
Ask her to meet you in the evening after seven.'

'Yes, ma'am.'
The call recorded on Rita's phone in the early hours of the day turned out to be from a
multiplicative voice scrambler, which meant the speech from the source was split into
pieces during transmission and restored at reception to make it impossible for experts to
decipher the gender. The caller had exhibited just how far ahead in the game he was; he
had access to technology and the ability to use it.
The call, the experts had worked out, had been made using a roaming SIM on local
network. The SIM was from Etisilat, Dubai. Another pay-as-you-go, they had checked.
The last usage recorded was: 4:50 a.m., the last known location: Pali Hill, Bandra. So
the caller was in the vicinity when he had called Rita. Rita and Vikram knew what the
killer had wanted to demonstrate. Knowing well that the police would trace the call
location, he had ensured the site was close to Rita's apartment; he could have called
from any other location, but he didn't. He didn't consider it a risk. It might have required
nerves to carry out something like this, but he didn't care. Actually, it might not have
been difficult. Anyone could have sat in the car making that call. Who would know? The
killer was now playing with their nerves, testing them, daring them.
'Is it possible to find out just how many Dubai SIM cards we have in Mumbai?' Rita
asked Vikram. It was a rhetorical question. Thousands of such unaccounted-for SIM
cards got imported illegally, changed hands and almost equal numbers exited the city or
got trashed after some particular job every single day. Who could ever be sure of an
image in a kaleidoscope? 'What concerns me actually is the breach of info,' Rita,
acknowledging Vikram wasn't responding to her earlier expression, resumed. 'We need
to stem the information leak.'
'You mean at Juhu Station.'
'That's obvious, but I fear that the seemingly obvious can mislead sometimes.'
'But no one else knew about it, ma'am.'
The two exchanged glances, looked towards the ceiling, then at the desk in Rita's
office, then looked at each other in silence. Both trying to recall if either had spoken to
anyone outside of the police regarding Hegde. Rita had confided in Ash, but... but he
was a crime profiler. And her boss Joshi had vouchsafed him. Why would Ash leak the
classified info? More importantly, whom could Ash speak to who could know the
caller? No, she hadn't spoken about it to anyone else. She parsed her tangled thoughts
into something meaningful before opening her mouth. 'Be hard on the Juhu SHO. We
cannot afford this happening again.'
'Yes, ma'am. Vikram left.
Rita sat at her desk, her hands in a steeple with the nails touching her lips. She called
Joshi to update him about the case, but his secretary told her he was not in office. She
called Ash next.
'How's the day going, Commissioner?'
'Deputy '
'Arrest me for my mistake?'
'Ash, did you speak to anyone last night after I told you about Hegde?'

'Is that a formal interrogation now? Am I a suspect?'


Don't worry, you don't need a lawyer yet. I'm only ensuring the leak is from Juhu
Police Station.' Rita succinctly updated him.
'Thank God. I am a registered criminal profiler in the UK, Rita. My tongue doesn't
slip. Or wag. I don't talk about any cases, past or present, to anyone except to those who
require that information to solve them and have the requisite authorisation to seek that
info. But in answer to your question, I didn't speak to anyone. Do I pass the litmus test?'
Rita could picture Ash chuckle through the wires. 'And does your job permit you to
take the investigation officer of the case you're working with, out on a date?' Rita
balanced the serious conversation by reminding Ash of their dinner date.
'Only if the investigation officer is also an old college friend, and who is single.'
'So what would you like to eat tonight?'
'How about sushi? Do we get sushi '
'Do you think this place is still in the Nineties, since you left the country?'
'Point taken.'
James Bond could no longer sit in some seaside restaurant and order caviar and
make some Indians reach for the dictionary to dig up what it was. Things had changed.
For good or bad, who knew? If the good was acceptable to the palate, the bad, the serial
killers, were only free sides that one had to swallow.
'Eight?'
'Shall pick you up from your office.'
Anita Raizada was over the moon since she had got the message that Jatin wanted to see
her in the evening. For two reasons. The obvious one was that she would finally get the
material for the story she was still struggling to start. And secondly, if she had to go to
see Jatin, she didn't have to sleep with that swine Narang. That she had not much choice
in the matter was now a forgone conclusion; if she wanted this story, which could be
career defining, she recognised she'd have to endure Narangs seduction. With her little
experience or any references, it seemed ridiculous to try for another job if she
antagonised Narang. That, precisely, was what Narang was exploiting. That and the fact
that Anita Raizada was one of prettiest girls he had ever laid his eyes on. Why would he
skip the chance of getting laid?
And though the fight was, by all odds, unequally arrayed, Anita wasn't giving up the
struggle. Well, at any rate, not for another day.
Ash drove Rita home after dinner. 'Want coffee?'
'Now that you insist.'
Ash smiled and got down from his car before she changed their mind. Out of the lift
on the fourth floor, Rita unlocked her apartment, got in and turned on the lights.
'Coffee or a small drink?'
'That will be lovely. What have you got?' Jim Beam.'
'Go on then. By the way, what made you think I'd speak with someone regarding the
case?' Ash asked.
'I was only wondering'

'It's good that you asked. Perplexity is like quicksand; the more you struggle, the
more you sink. So now that you have cleared me.' Ash raised the tumbler as a toast; Rita
responded with a smile. 'Or, at least, I think you have acquitted me, did you find out how
the last evening's events might have leaked to the caller?'
'Hegde admitted he paid hafta, so I am guessing someone obliged him.'
'Any idea who that could be?'
Rita shook her head in disgust.
'Rita, I am sure the unhinged reciprocate our feelings. They must believe that we are
insane.'
Ash got up from the sofa and sat down on the cushions on the floor. Close to Rita.
They have a twisted perception of reality. To such people, a small impediment
might get magnified to a life-threatening scenario. You are an obstruction in his path and
he knows that. As I mentioned before, watch out, he will come for you.'
'Are you trying to scare me?'
'Warn you.'
From where he sat, he could see the light falling on Rita; she looked extremely
attractive to him. He felt excitement, giving way to febrility; pleasure and fright
coexisting like good neighbours.
'I am warned.' Rita broke his reverie.
'Forgot to tell you. I have to cut short my holiday. I need to return to London this
weekend.'
'You mean the day after tomorrow?' Ash nodded.
'And youre telling me now?'
'I didn't know about it till the morning. Got a call, there's this case I am involved
with Im treating a patient. The guy attempted suicide in prison. I have to return.
Sorry.'
'Will you be coming back any time soon?'
'If you want me to.'
Rita kissed him. Forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks, chin, neck, then, on the mouth. There
wasn't much conversation; she guided him. The clothes came off sans abnegation. All of
them. She was smooth as the day she was born, not a blemish on the skin. The body
defied her age. Ash lifted her and took her into the bedroom.
He left in the morning, promising to stay in touch.

SIXTEEN
2007
It had been three weeks since the second murder. Every search till now had teetered into
an impasse, a standstill. Wrong tips, miscarried leads, incorrect conjectures, inaccurate
theories, mistaken suspects, failed tell-tales; all attempts had been amiss. It was like
being in a room with no doors. Could Rita eke out a victory here? It had, after all, been
an unsolved case for the longest time in her career.
All interview transcripts were read anew, door-to-door canvassing reports
reviewed and re-reviewed, scene of crime photographs and accounts re-examined by
distinguished homicide detectives across the country to dissect and scrutinise if anything
had been missed. Nada. Forensics furnished nothing fresh either. Radiology, odontology,
microbiology, pathology and all other -ologies failed to provide a single clue. Except
toxicology, that had furnished the name of the drug the killer had given to the two
victims: Chloral Hydrate. But Mumbai Police, for all its might, had gained nothing on
where the drug had been obtained.
Little thieves are hanged, but great ones escape had become an overused
expression in uniformed police circles.
The source of the leak at Juhu Police Station never got detected. Pity. That was the
closest Rita and the team had come to getting a lead. A hunt for inconspicuous telepimps like Hegde had unearthed a few men, but all were disregarded. Rita put decoys
plainclothesmen looking for hookers as part of a sting operation, but got no pointers
to Malti or Julie.
Police wanted hookers, any hooker really from high-class call girls to those who
accosted on streets in Bhendi Bazaar, Colaba and Juhu to come forward if they knew
either Lele or Suri. Or Malti or Julie. They were reluctant for obvious reasons. No one
wanted to get entangled in the mess, least of all hookers. Who wanted to get involved
with an insane killer on the one hand and Mumbai Police on the other? And if a hooker's
involvement with the police got out, how would they get any business? Tricks paid for
privacy, not publicity.
A fresh stab at motives brought in nothing new. The backgrounds of Lele and Suri
were checked again. Besides the fact that both men had been involved with hawala and
hookers, and both had called Hegde before their murders, the search fetched nix. The
mounting pressure of the yet unsolved murders was pushing Rita over the brink.
The police brought in all sexual deviants and murderers, including those acquitted
for lack of evidence. Annals showed numerous cases where the killer had been released,
by mistake or for dearth of testimony, and then gone on to kill a few more before being

apprehended. Their whereabouts on the nights of murders were questioned; any


corroboration, all alibis were verified. Nothing turned up. They widened the gyre to
search; maybe the guy was never arrested for sexual deviance or offence, but on account
of something else. Over three thousand interviews were carried out. Still nothing. The
flagged map of Mumbai produced no result: first murder in Versova, second at ITC
Grand Maratha.
Tongues had started wagging. It seemed that the media had an encyclopaedia of
statements against the police the speed at which they delivered their opinionated
stories to the public. Besides, rhetorically, stating the obvious and getting riled at the
lack of progress, every damn paper in the country had, especially, named Rita, at least
twice.
"Was she the right choice?" questioned one of the dailies.
Another leading daily ran: "Waning perspicacity of Mumbai's best detective."
That worried Rita. Narang, the idiot, had awarded her the moniker of the best, but it
sounded more a taunting epithet than praise now. And why wasn't she told when she was
the best? Why, now, when she was failing? The rsum swelled until all was hunky dory
and blooming, and till she kept cracking cases. Then, one failure and, like in any other
profession, she knew the career could end abruptly. And God bless her if she flunked in
a high-profile job like a multiple homicide. The upside was that she would no longer
require a rsum because the rags would ensure no one employed her. Cops were
trained not to prepare themselves for the best-case scenario. Rita was, after all, a cop.
Though she had risen up several ranks, moved from uniform division and now Deputy
Commissioner, she was still, decidedly, a cop. What had she expected? It had been three
weeks and forget making an arrest they didn't have a single suspect. Scattered
thoughts bothered her. She had been unsuccessful at arranging the pieces of info, much of
it was missing still. There was no simple answer. There was no coherent, logical,
analytical answer. There was no answer. Period.
And the delay in answers could very well mean another murder.
Surprisingly, though, the murderer had lain dormant for three weeks. Was this, as
experts articulated, the cooling off period between the murders that the serial killers
usually took to plan the next murder? Or was it just that this particular killer had
encountered guilt and called off after just two? He hadn't made any contact with NEWS
of the DAY or any other newspaper. There had been no more calls to Rita. At Rita's
instructions, Inspector Jatin Singh had regularly drip-fed unclassified information to
Anita Raizada to keep the killer satiated.
Anita Raizada had laboriously covered the tidings all along, released to her by Jatin, and
reported information as often as Rita decided. The killer, if he was still in Mumbai, and
if he was still interested in the news of his conquests, would have smirked every
morning.
However, he didnt communicate with NEWS of the Day or Narang.
But, Anita, having been favoured by the wolf, had had to return the favour. It hadn't
been a pleasant evening.

Anita had been working late for the next morning's edition when Narang called her to
his office.
'Close the door,' he said, his eyes bloodshot. 'Drink?'
He opened the drawer and pulled out a bottle of Smirnoff.
'Ive got loads to do,' Anita blurted before he could fill a glass for her.
'Sit. That can wait. The killer doesn't seem to be interested in the news anymore.
Neither is the public. What's the rush, we can print it in the next edition.'
Narang got up from his chair and walked up to the door of his office, bolted it and
pulled down the blinds.
'What are you ' She abruptly got up and turned around to leave.
'Shhh' He had clasped his arms around her, his hands finding their way to her
buttocks to press them against him. 'We had an agreement, didn't we?'
'But, today'
'What's wrong with today?'
'I'm having my periods Amit.'
The annoyance in Narang's eyes was frightening. He turned, rested against the desk
and unbuttoned her shirt. The bra came off next. He whistled before he sunk his teeth into
her breasts. Then, with one hand, he yanked Anita by her hair and pushed her down to
kneel in front of him.
You know what to do.' He unzipped his fly and pulled out his penis. He didn't wait
for her to react; he just pushed it into her mouth. 'Suck it baby. And look at me while you
suck it.' He held her head firmly against his thrusts.
Anita detached her brain from the physical humiliation she endured. Someone,
somewhere, in the past had done this. And paid for it.
Narang, she swore, would pay too.
Dusk and doubt had concluded Rita's day at work. She had consciously given Jim a wide
berth the last few weeks. Drinking when drowned in a problem she had seen that all
too closely. It had happened to her father when business had started to go down; the way
he had taken to the bottle and never regained his sanity. Rita had seen the blank stare in
her mother's eyes, experienced the unrelenting sad evenings. She was sensible enough to
understand the repercussions of going down that road.
Her sleep or the lack of it was a constant reminder that she gave more than
required. But, that was Rita. Some things you couldnt change in a cop. More
significantly, you couldnt change the elements in a personality.
Rita and Joshi were on time for the 8 a.m. meeting with the Commissioner in his large
office. Surely, Sexy would have referred to it as a commodious office rather than large.
Or maybe prodigious? Sexy, however, hadn't arrived; the Commissioner wasn't the one
whod wait for his reports; they could wait.
And they did.
Tea arrived. Anyone waiting in the Commissioner's office, and it didn't matter if they
had come to get their carrot or the stick, got served tea. There wasn't much choice in that.

The Commissioner drank tea and everyone who ever visited him had to drink it. As the
duo sat and sipped their teas, both knew what this meeting had been called for.
The Chief Minister of Maharashtra was a very powerful man. Correction. The CM of
the state of Maharashtra was always a powerful man. Whatever happened in Mumbai
had international implications. It was the commercial capital of India. If you wanted to
destroy India, you had to destroy Mumbai. The world knew it. The Prime Minister knew
it.
Obviously, the Chief Minister of the state knew it. The money the city generated filled
national coffers; if Mumbai were a country, it would be a small and prosperous one,
despite its population. Add to it the income from an abundance of industry throughout the
rest of the state. Besides, with the current Central government standing on crutches of
coalition, the state was a powerhouse. Hence, when some millions went missing because
Samir Suri got killed before he could deliver them, the CMs office naturally demanded
answers. The CM's PA, under the pretext of public service, had been exerting undue
pressure on the Commissioner.
The CM wanted an answer.
The CM's PA needed an answer.
The Commissioner demanded an answer.
The meeting, Joshi and Rita knew, wasn't going to be painless.
The Commissioner of Mumbai Police arrived at twenty past the hour in mufti: grey
suit, crisply creased, white shirt, no tie. Polished moccasins.
He did not offer any apologies for his delay. Ideally, he would have preferred to
have a one-to-one with Joshi, but the smooth-tongued man had once again persuaded his
boss to meet Rita along with him. "She's the one who has the most insights," he had said.
If Sexy had a choice, he would have insured that Rita be put behind a purdah.
'Good morning, sir.' His juniors stood up to greet him.
Sexy motioned them to sit before he started. 'I am under inordinate pressure from the
top to submit a comprehensive report on what we've achieved so far in the enquiry
related to the gruesome murders of Adit Lele and Samir Suri.'
Rita wondered if Sexy was equally proficient in adjectives and adverbs in Hindi.
'We have been on the case...' Joshi uttered and expectantly looked at Rita to take
over. Rita, in a few minutes, recounted the entire findings of the case, the discovery of
Hegde, and the information breach which had given away news of his arrest to the
killer that helped him wipe off the only pointer.
'Remind me to speak to the Juhu SHO later,' Sexy growled. Rita nodded and narrated
the call made to her by the killer. 'Why wasn't I told about this?'
It was Rita's turn to look at Joshi. It was his job to update the Commissioner, not
hers.
'I didn't think you needed to get involved, that would be playing to the tune that the
killer wants: getting someone of your level to take an interest means the media would
sense it was more serious than we were projecting, sir.'
Sexy didn't seem to buy the argument, but he didn't want to disagree with Joshi, at

least not in Rita's presence. 'Have you provided a plainclothes police officer around
DCP Ferreira's apartment 24 by 7?' he asked Joshi.
'I don't think that is required sir,' Rita expressed.
Sexy didn't as much as look at her. 'It's a must. If that vainglorious killer has dared to
be in the vicinity of DCP's residence, we should ensure her apartment is watched for her
safety. It might also help in providing some clue in case he revisits the area.
I am a DCP, not some schoolgirl who needs security, Rita wanted to bang her palm at
Sexy's desk, but refrained. That action might have instigated the Commissioner to put
guards in her bedroom.
Sexy wasn't surprised the killer had gone cold after two murders. 'I told you there is
no such thing as a serial killer in India,' he gloated. Joshi stared at Rita and dared her to
say anything otherwise. 'I need an unwavering plan to get to this killer. The CM's office
is keen to announce the arrest.'
'Yes, sir. Were doing our best.'
'Do you need any more people? Maybe another DCP to assist Miss Ferreira?'
'Not at the moment sir.'
Joshi got up to leave. Rita took the hint. Both slipped out of the room.
Senior Inspector Nene had canvassed the entire area near Rita's residence and Pali Hill.
Two separate men had noticed a red Maruti Suzuki 800 in a state of dereliction, with
darkened windows parked oddly on the pavement on the night Rita had got the call
from the same area. No, neither had seen it before or since that evening and hadn't found
it odd then but, now, recollected that the engine had been running all the time. None had
bothered to note the number or to report.
Out of the over a few million Marutis sold, how many were red?
Lack of sufficient info always gave birth to more possibilities than required. end.
Nevertheless, a fresh search had begun. It could be the break. It could be another
dead
The blue sky, no longer blue, had long gone to sleep when Rita left Crawford Market.
The inconspicuous police sub-inspector, planted near her apartment, in plain clothes was
hardly discreet. Not for Rita at any rate, but then, her eyes were trained to notice. Cops
had an ingrained attribute of absorbing as much as they could while looking at people,
even when they tried not to. Somewhere in the deepest recesses of the mind, the brain
made a note. Blue ill-fitting jeans, white shirt with a cotton jacket to hide the holster:
that sort of thing. Rita jerked herself out of the sleuth-mode and took the lift up to her
apartment.
Contrary to medical advice, Rita had worked out that aspirins worked best for her
when assisted with whiskey. Like a viper, her tongue lapped her lips in anticipation of
Jim. It was then that she saw the message light flashing on her phone. She took a sip and
walked to listen to the message.
'Hi gorgeous.' It was Ash. 'Call me.'
It was close to 9 p.m. 4:30 p.m. in the U.K.

Rita hadn't spoken to Ash since he had left. There had been an e-mail exchange, but
that was it. She looked for his number in her mobile and dialled him.
'Aye...how are you?' He sounded happy. 'Fine. How come you called?'
'I was missing you.'
Rita could never be certain if Ash was serious or joking. 'Oh really? I thought you'd
never call.'
'I got busy. Sorry. I told you about this case I had to return to attend.'
'That's OK. I can understand, I meanyou can't keep in touch with every woman you
sleep with.'
'You're being nasty today. Got the stick from someone?'
'Big one.'
'I see you still haven't caught that maniac killer.'
'How do you know?'
'Google. There's been nothing in the news.'
'So youre keeping an eye on our work.'
'You could say that. Listen, I am coming over.'
'To Mumbai?'
'Yes, I had my vacation cancelled due to this emergency situation, so it's only fair I
am given some time off in lieu.'
'When?' Rita could feel her pulse rise. For a few seconds the heartbeat went up to a
hundred, but she made sure it didn't show in her voice.
'Next week.'
'Would be good to see you again.'
'Should I book my hotel or am I permitted to sleep on your sofa?' Is that a new chatup line?
Six days, Rita smiled when she put the phone down. Convinced that this was a happy
moment, she had a large swig from her tumbler. The taste of Jim lingered in her mouth
long after she had switched off the lights.

----------------------------------... I Love you Rachu ...


Dear Frnds pls spread this msg until its reach to my rachu
I thinks see knows my name
Book Downloaded from: EBOOK4IN.BLOGSPOT.COM

SEVENTEEN
1990
State of Maharashtra versus Raja Kumar, R. Thapar, Y. Khan, K. Sharma and B.
Raghavan
Case Reg No. APPLN/194/1990
Reg. Date. 11/01/1990
Appeal: Criminal
Disp By: Hon'ble Shri Justice J.K. Khanna
Petitioner: Viviane
Defendants; Raja Kumar and friends (R. Thapar, Y. Khan, K. Sharma and B. Raghavan)
High Court of Judicature
Bombay
The Bombay High Court was boisterous, and packed with more people than the
authorities had anticipated. The media hadn't spared any ink in building hype around the
case, their stories uncovering history and geography of the plaintiff and the defendants.
Whatever the outcome of the case, the citizenry had savoured every raunchy comment,
every lewd page, and they were yet unsatiated. Honourable Justice J.K. Khanna had
issued a fiat prohibiting media's presence. Nothing should be telecast or printed. No
cameras. This was a criminal case, and till proven in this court, both parties were
innocent and deserved privacy. He had deliberated if this should be a closed hearing, but
ruled it out after discussions with his peers.
Citizens had a right.
The bailiff closest to the Bench moved, called the court to order, and all movement,
all noise in the packed courtroom died. Justice Khanna, in his robe, entered his domain
and the subjects respectfully stopped gossiping, or whatever they were doing, to pay due
attention.
This was the moment Public Prosecutor Sham Verma had dreaded all along since the
day he got the case assigned to him a random allotment to the next available Public
Prosecutor. Verma looked like someone who had retired from the courts several years
back, but still kept turning up every morning. Thin, white haired it would require a
microscope to find a single black hair on his head spectacled, mousy features and a
moustache he never shaved since he had turned up in the court the very first time a few
years after Indian Independence. His dishevelled clothes, too, seemed he hadn't changed
in all those decades. His face carried a permanent expression of hopelessness written on
it, like someone who wasn't even looking for the bus; forget missing it. He had cursed

his stars to be the one next in queue, for no advocate, in his right mind, would have
craved for this case. He had prepared Viviane for the most brutal questioning, insisted
that she look unglamorous, and a vapid mother, not her usual gorgeous self. The law
might work on evidence, but a judge was always impressionable. Sympathy, in the right
measure, was what was required to persuade someone too much and it would appear
histrionics on Viviane's part, yearning for pity; too little and the case could be over in
minutes. The odds were very long, but what other option did he have? Verma had read
the case, the evidence from police files, the medical reports.
Everything seemed right to take the case to trial. Except the client.
Viviane looked every bit a siren, and, that couldn't be good for this case. Sirens
didn't get pity. And once her profession was conjured up in court on record, the Defence
Advocate would rehash it mercilessly. It would be the one thing that was capable of
providing misery to Viviane and harassment to the prosecuting advocate. It would be the
one thing that would enthral the public most. Sadly, it was also the one thing that was
incapable of being concealed.
When it was certain that Arjun Hingorani had taken the case for the defence, Verma
was fazed. Hingorani was acclaimed to be lethal, one of the best Defence Advocates
money could buy in Bombay. Or even in India. And money and law, in India, had forever
been in matrimony.
No one in the world could do better justice to the word pompous than Hingorani.
Every single thing he wore, carried, spoke and expressed conveyed he thought very
highly of himself. He was an extremely successful lawyer, and like most other successful
lawyers in India, he was a pedigreed lawyer. His father and grandfather had been
lawyers too. Salt and pepper hair, gold-rimmed glasses, polished leather shoes,
expensive watch, all displayed on a five-foot-nine mannequin. He argued cases like he
played chess. For every word Hingorani spoke, for every move he made in the
courtroom, he had the next twenty-five planned. Verma wasn't even a pawn on his
chessboard; he was an empty space on the board as far as Hingorani was concerned.
Only fifty years old, he had an unbeaten record in the courtroom and Verma had as much
chance of winning the case as the Titanic against the iceberg; defeat would be as icy too.
Viviane wore a sari, the perfect attire for the courtroom. With years spent in India,
her skin, her hair, her mannerisms, her language no longer seemed alien. Would the
question of her origin come up? And would it affect the decision? A jury with women
might have understood her plight better but, sadly, juries had gone out of fashion;
abolished in India in 1960 after the flawed jury trial of Nanawati the preceding year.
The Indian Naval Commander had shot dead his wifes paramour. The legal bodies
claimed the case had made headlines, and the newspapers especially the biased
tabloid Blitz influenced and misdirected the jury members who, as reverent Indians,
had been led to believe it was poetic justice: something any honourable man would have
done. No one ever stopped to ponder how the honourable man got together with his same
promiscuous wife later and left India to live in Canada, but the case had changed the
rules of the land. And it had been this very High Court that had called it a mistrial,

issued a writ of certiorari and dismissed the jury verdict.


Mistrial.
Would Viviane's case get a fair trial? Whatever the outcome, it had the potential of
being made into a Bollywood film. Didn't Nanawati's case inspire two masala flicks?
Mistrial.
A few murmurs had started when people saw Viviane, but ceased as Justice Khanna
tapped the gavel. The court was in order. The trial began. The bailiff read the charges
against the defendants gangrape of Viviane by the five men.
Verma got up and presented the case, the medical evidence, the FIR at Colaba Police
Station. Prosecution claimed that Viviane, who worked for Pathak, had gone to meet
Raja Kumar on business, only Mr Raja Kumar, but he had allegedly invited four other
friends who repeatedly raped Viviane at Mr Kumar's Worli Sea Face apartment. Verma
pointed towards the five accused men in the courtroom who were out on bail. Thapa,
having been threatened of dire consequences by Pathak and by Kumar's men, stayed
away from the case, but he had sent evidence in writing; he had returned to his native
Nepal and could not be summoned by any court order. Verma highlighted that rape
wasnt merely about physical penetration; it wasnt about a man, woman, young or old.
Rape was against someones will. And yes, everyone had equal right to their will
irrespective of their profession, financial status or social standing. It was inequity if a
poor woman was denied the right to say no because of her profession.
As already intimated to Verma, Hingorani's first witness was Viviane. Oath taken, a
daunted Viviane stood in the witness box.
Hingorani stood up, bowed to Justice Khanna, then to the courtroom, ran his left hand
through his straight backcombed hair, like he was getting ready for his performance on a
film set. He walked up theatrically to Viviane.
'Good morning.'
Viviane's lips quivered when she smiled to acknowledge his greeting.
'Your name, Miss'
'Viviane Casey.'
'And your profession, Miss Viviane?'
'Objection, My Lord.' Verma arose. 'Overruled.'
'What is your profession Miss Viviane?'
'I am jobless.'
'I am sorry. You must be looking for one then?'
'Yes.' Tears had started forming in Viviane's eyes. She knew, precisely, what these
questions would be preluding to.
'What kind of work are you looking for Miss Viviane?'
'Objection, My Lord. My clients joblessness has nothing to do with this case.'
'Sustained. Mr Hingorani, please ask what is pertinent to this case,' Justice Khanna
agreed.
'Apologies, My Lord. So, Miss Viviane, what educational qualifications do you'
'Objection, My Lord,' Verma interjected again.

'Sustained. Mr Hingorani, please advance the case.'


'Apologies, again, My Lord. Miss Viviane, where are you from?'
'I live in Mumbai.'
'Miss Viviane, I didn't ask you that. I know where you live now, I asked you where
do you come from?'
'Objection'
'Overruled.'
'I am from Russia.' Viviane knew lying on oath was out of question. 'When did you
arrive in India, Miss Viviane?'
'Almost eight years ago.'
'Eight years ago,' mumbled Hingorani, as if trying to calculate. 'Which means you
arrived in India in 1982, is that correct Miss Viviane?'
'Yes.'
'And, you have been in India ever since?' Viviane nodded her assent.
'Sorry, I couldn't hear that.'
'Yes.'
'Do you live alone, Miss Viviane?'
'No. With my son.'
'And his father, of course'
Hingorani was a complete bastard. He had alluded to her status as a foreign national
living illegally in the country, and now he went for her unwedded mother status. It might
have been acceptable in the West or in Russia but, in India, it was a social taboo.
Impermissible.
'Objection, My Lord. Mr Hingoranis unnecessary questions and insinuations are
wasting the court's time,' Verma cried, knowing well the court clerk had already
docketed Viviane's legal and marital status; the damage had been done
'Sustained. Mr Hingorani, please keep your questions germane to the case,' Justice
Khanna warned again.
'Since when have you been out of work Miss Viviane? How do you financially
support yourself and your son in Bombay without a job? ' Hingorani resumed the
onslaught.
One question at a time, Mr Hingorani, the judge interrupted. Apologies, My Lord.
Viviane looked at Verma, who had warned her of such questions. There was no way
the defence team would let her professional status pass.
'Miss Viviane, how do you support your family?' Hingorani repeated.
'This is a sheer waste of the court's time, My Lord. Mr Hingorani has all information
regarding Miss Viviane's education, profession and family on file. Her jobless status has
as much relevance to this case as the registration details of Robert Mugabe's car. It is
impertinent.'
There were sneers in the room.
This wasnt a discovery class, and Hingorani wasnt an explorer. No defence
advocate ever asked a question to which he didnt already know the answer. The

histrionics were for the judge.


His Lordship didn't appreciate levity in this court and down came the gavel.
When Justice Khanna refused to interject, Verma turned to Hingorani: 'What are you
trying to derive by repeating the same questions in different ways? Are you attempting to
deflect attention from the case?'
Hingorani remained unperturbed. He had run this track a hundred times, knowing
every hump, every hole, every turn. 'I am only verifying what's on the file for the sake of
the court.'
'Mr Verma, I dont need to remind you that you shouldnt interfere during the defence
lawyers questioning of a witness. Proceed Mr Hingorani.'
'Thank you, My Lord.' Hingorani took a bow displaying his gratitude to the judge and
continued without a break. 'So how do you support your family Miss Viviane?'
'I work...'
'You just said you didn't have a job. So do you have a job or not Miss Viviane?'
'I have no permanent job. I work part-time, whenever given an opportunity.'
'Opportunity,' Hingorani stressed on the word like it was immoral to look for
opportunities, and paused for effect, for the judge and audience to carefully take note.
But then, any good defence lawyer would obviously challenge, contend and contravene
everything, and Hingorani was a master of the art. 'So, Miss Viviane, what kinds of
opportunities come your way?'
'Objection.'
'Sustained.'
'Miss Viviane, it might be unprecedented for you, but I plead ignorant of how
transactions take place whenever you get this opportunity for work. Could you tell me,
and the court, what happened before you started for my client's house please?'
'We got a call, around five, from him...'
'Him? Miss Viviane, may I request you to drop pronouns and use proper names
please?'
'I got a call from your client...'
'Mr Raja Kumar?'
'Yes.'
'What exactly was your purpose of visit to my client, Mr Raja Kumar's apartment on
the evening of January 9th?' he started the assault.
Hingorani's intimidating questions, his offensive allegations debilitated Viviane; he
made a travesty of the complaint, and, in the next hour, bulldozed Viviane to admit
absurdities, tricked her into contradicting herself. And, once put in that pathetically
defensive mode, he pulled her deeper and deeper till the legalese finally broke her. The
court wasn't disposed to be sympathetic to her questionable profession in any event. All
evidence started to evaporate once the defence established, beyond doubt, the plaintiff's
profession, her avarice, and that she was at Raja Kumar's apartment on her own volition,
not forced or pulled into it from the street. 'My Lord, I request you to listen and
deliberate dispassionately, as the prosecution has portrayed a grim story of an innocent

immigrant. But, that happened years ago. This case is about the night of January 9th,
1990. Miss Viviane knew exactly what she was visiting Mr Kumar's residence for, and
that he had other guests, male guests...'
'Objection, My Lord! This is a ridiculous statement. My client had no idea there
were five men in the apartment,' Verma called out.
'So? I am sorry, My Lord,' Hingorani was brutally direct now, 'but, if you are a
butcher, does it matter if five clients come to buy together or if they come after one
another and buy the meat of the same animal?'
'This is a preposterous analogy.'
'Miss Viviane.' Hingorani turned to her. 'Have you never had sex with more than one
man in a single night?'
Still shocked at Hingoranis analogy, Viviane remained silent. 'Miss Viviane, please
respond to my question.'
Viviane, tears in eyes, voiced. 'I have, but...'
'Miss Viviane, I don't mean to be explicit, but I have to ask you this: did my clients
make you do anything sexual that you hadn't done before?'
Viviane broke down shaking her head. 'No.'
'You should be glad, Miss Viviane, that my clients are not asking for punitive
damages. Your insincere attempt to tarnish my clients' reputation could be treated as a
serious offence and a sheer waste of courts time.' He turned to Justice Khanna. 'I fail to
see any merit whatsoever in further arguments, My Lord. The defence rests now.' He ran
his left hand through his hair again, and pretentiously walked back to his seat. He had
mercilessly throttled the truth.
Truth? It wasn't Hingorani's sole effort; truth had always had a tendency to be
martyred.
Verma, checkmated, had no riposte. He sat like someone had glued his lips; there
was hardly any chance of the case turning around after this.
The case was quashed.
Honourable Shri Justice J.K. Khanna dropped the gavel. He arose and so did
everyone in the court and walked out. Verma walked up to Viviane to calm her.
Kumar, Thapar, Khan, Sharma and Raghavan walked free.
Mistrial.
Those two words not guilty ruined Viviane.
Woken up in the middle of the night by frantic cries from Junior the Club was closed
for business on the day of the hearing Margaret, and others, tried making tourniquets
of anything they could get hold of, but too much blood had been lost.
They couldn't save Viviane. At any rate, she didn't want to live. Junior was too young
to understand death when he saw its ugly face, and the consequences it would bear for
him after Viviane's loss, albeit he could comprehend it was a loss, a wound.
Some things remain or at least seem incomplete even after their conclusion.
Junior wondered why his mother had not bid goodbye to him? He, too, hadn't got the
chance to say goodbye to his mother. He sat beside her, holding her hand till the morning.

They had to wait for a full day before they could shift the stiff to a cemetery.
Viviane was smuggled out of the dump like she had been smuggled in.

EIGHTEEN
2007
Five days, Rita reminded herself before she went to bed. It wasn't like anything lasting
could ever materialise between Ash and her. It wasn't that he'd propose. Or that she'd
accept if he did. She couldnt comprehend the excitement. Camaraderie? Good friends
didn't have sex.
She couldn't put a finger on it and that bothered her. Was she merely filling the void?
Or was it just a request from her body, an auscultation? Perhaps, time hadn't allowed
concluding things the last time Ash was in town? The moon was yawning, stretching, and
the moonlight smiling; a forgotten story was resurfacing. Karan. Ash. She wasn't going to
spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you". She disallowed her mind to go
off looking for an answer. Let things take their own course was her last erudite thought
before sleep took her away.
Only to wake up four hours later to the menacing noise of her telephone at 3:15 a.m.
Rita's mind went numb as she took the call. Premonition conveyed to the
subconscious mind that a call at this hour wasn't a good sign. It could be a murder. Or the
murderer?
It was the Duty Inspector from the Control Room. Murder. Male victim. Vile Parle
apartment. Fourth floor.
'Please get S/I Vikram and Inspector Jatin Singh out of their beds and ask them to
meet me at the location ASAP,' she said without any contrition; the two couldn't be doing
much at this hour except killing time with sleep. 'Have your murder investigation troops
rushed to the scene if they havent already started. Also, ask the local police station to
cordon off the area and ensure that no one touches anything. No one talks to the media.
And I need a patrol car in fifteen minutes. Thanks.'
The similar pungent whiff of death awaited Rita and her team. Simultaneity of fuck
filled the room like it was the mantra of the day chanted irrespective of rank.
Sonofabitch succeeded that, quickly followed by other numerous, non-gender specific,
obscenities; profanities generally practice equal opportunity, gender wasn't even
considered before uttering. Rita, Jatin and Vikram looked at each other. The phalanx of
uniformed police waited for instructions while the scene of crime machinery got into
action.
Another life had been pronounced extinct.
The psychotic killer had struck again. It was like an encore, a repeat performance of
the previous two murders. Au naturel male stiff. Age thirty-five, give or take. Groin
butchered, genitalia dismembered and missing: the killer had signed off his work by

taking the penis away. One shot in the head between the eyes. There was a tumbler with
a little amber coloured liquid remaining, which didn't require the expertise of a
laboratory to tell Rita & Co. what it was: some alcohol with Choral Hydrate.
Interestingly, the killer had, on this occasion, strived to mislead by leaving a bra at the
scene. Feminine scent, lipstick, female voice and now a bra, why?
While it had been confirmed by experts that the call Rita had received from the killer
weeks ago was authentic, Rita decided to test if the loony caller knew intricate details
about this recent murder. If they ensured that specifics weren't disclosed outside a close
coterie of police personnel present at the scene, there could only be one person who
would know this: the killer himself. 'I want as many uniformed police officers at the site
as required to keep the media away. Cordon off the whole goddamn street, no
photographs, no comments, nothing whatsoever to any reporter. Arrest anyone who
trespasses and confiscate the cameras. No exceptions at all. That's an order. Canvass,
re-canvass the area under a microscope, I want nothing to be missed this time. No one
can commit three murders and not leave a single clue, especially when one is bent on
seeking glory,' she demanded. This was, now, more than just doing a job; this was about
pride, a belief in justice. And, if there was a God, Rita thought, it was about time He, at
the least, took sides.
What was already bad had taken another wrong turn. The story would, no doubt, go
national now. Media thrived remorselessly at failures. Didnt the sinking of the Titanic
sell more paper than its sailing?
'What are you thinking?' Vikram asked when Rita sat in the Gypsy he was driving her
back in. They had entrusted Jatin to take charge of the uniformed police before leaving
the scene.
'I have no idea what to think, absolutely no fucking idea at all.' Rita wished this was
some episode of CSI and some wicked technology could solve the mystery. She lowered
the volume on the radio: it was high time, anyway, that someone told Michael Bolton
how he was supposed to live without whoever he was supposed to live without.
Joseph Martin was a lanky man measuring six feet three. Married, with three daughters,
a doting wife and a flourishing business manufacturing steel girders. Four factories in
Valsad, also known as Bulsar where Farrokh Bulsara alias Freddie Mercury (Queen)
came from numerous other properties in Mumbai, which were, like this one in Vile
Parle, furnished and locked. Mumbai tenancy rules prohibited property investors like
Martin to rent them out of fear of tenants becoming squatters; as a consequence, the
investor was better off keeping the property vacant and locked. Even that wasnt
considered secure, but Martin was a shark and the minnows, resultantly, kept away.
Above all, Martin knew what to do with his properties. Some residents, in the Vile Parle
building, regularly saw him in the company of gorgeous women in this apartment, though
no one knew who he was or what he did or where he came from. He was spotted in the
lifts, once in a while a polite, well-mannered man, impeccably attired to reflect his
status.
On this particular instance, Martin had called his wife Sylvia at six-thirty the

evening before to inform he wasn't coming home, but driving over to Valsad. There had
been some labour issues in one of the factories and he needed to be there. Sylvia hadn't
been concerned because whenever Martin had to rush for anything, either he or his
driver RK called to report. And RK had called sometime after 9 p.m. to confirm that
sahib went straight into a negotiation meeting after the 200-kilometre journey.
Three neighbours had seen his black Audi drive in, on this occasion,, but hadn't
bothered to see who the filly was on this trip. One senior couple, however, was certain
they had seen two silhouettes in the car when Martin had driven into the complex.
The local police had combed every inch and collected all fibres, hair, latents and
whatnots from his car to see if they could recover anything that wasn't his or his familys.
Everything had been sent off to the Forensics.
The Vile Parle apartment was quite a way from the local train station and that made
Rita deduce that the assailant might have a mode of transport. The red Maruti seen near
Rita's apartment, on the night she got the call, came to mind. However, nothing
evidenced that the killer, after stamping out his victims, returned home immediately. He
could well have stayed in a hotel or some guesthouse to celebrate his success for a
while or to contrive a menace for his next target. Or he could have used some public
transport.
Pathologist and Forensics confirmed what the detectives knew already. Chloral
Hydrate in blood, 9 x19 calibre shot post-mortem.
What was with the bra then?
The size was 38D. Big woman. But the Forensics confirmed it had never been worn.
Futile shenanigan by the murderer then?
Frighteningly immaculate planning though the killer had, once again, covered his
tracks magnificently, not giving anything away. Thus far, the investigation had consumed
resources and delivered no leads. It was a grisly thought to wait for another victim, to
hope the killer might make a mistake and render some clues. Rita grimaced at the very
idea, but given the druthers, she found the strange thought comfortable. How belatedly
would that be? And how many more would be stamped out before the killer stopped
hunting?
Or he was hunted?
One thing no one doubted was that the inveterate killer would strike again. Reckless
to the point of taunting, the killer had left Martin's mobile phone behind. Martin had
received two calls from a Dubai number on his mobile phone in the hour before his
death.
Everyones a saint before their sins get uncovered. Sylvia, Martin's wife, was either
fraught with defiance or hurting that her husband was gallivanting with a hooker; she
insisted that she had no idea. Her persistent denial about her dead husbands
philanderings eventually convinced the detectives. Any question seemed pointless in the
light of her ignorance.
'There's one thing we're still missing here, Vikram...' Rita was sat sipping coffee in
her office.

'Whats that ma'am?'


'How does it all start? I understand Martin received calls from the Dubai number, but
that cannot be the start. Don't you think that he would have called some local number,
someone like Hegde, to initiate his request for a hooker? Seems there's something
missing. Where did the person with the Dubai number get the idea that Martin needed a
girl last night?'
'He might have erased that number from his call list.'
'The phone company should be able to give us the call-log. Tell them this is a murder
investigation and they'd better fucking cooperate. We don't have time for court orders.'
Rita was losing her control on the language; the stress was getting to her.
'Yes ma'am.'
'The driver' Rita said aloud before Vikram had left her office. His expression
remained blank as a newly bought slate. 'Wasn't he the one who called Martin's wife to
say they were in Valsad?
A nod from Vikram.
'If he knew his boss was jazzing around with some whore in one of the apartments,
why couldn't it be him who arranged for her in the first place?'
Another nod. The reasoning was sinking in.
All its authority and coercion tactics notwithstanding, Mumbai Police couldn't
dredge up any information from the driver. RK simply wasn't in the know. Sometimes
Martin sahib gave him time off and told him to make a call on his behalf and he did
exactly that. Yes, Martin sahib had female guests in the car, yes some of them weren't
exactly business associates, and yes there were times when more than words were
exchanged in the back seat while he drove. However, he had no idea how Martin sahib
contacted this guests. He had an inkling Martin sahib entertained some guests at his
various pieds--terre, but he was never privy to which vacant property Martin sahib
would grace on a particular evening. Which made sense: why would Joseph Martin tell
RK where he shacked with a whore after hours?
All in all, bad news for crime branch: no clue, no indicant.
'If Joseph Martin called someone for what we think he called for, there should be
calls made by this number to arrange what Martin wanted, Rita reasoned with Vikram.
Nod.
And there must be calls made to him or by him after that call to confirmmaybe?
Yet another nod.
Im sure he erased some call. Ask the mobile operator to give us the record of all
incoming and outgoing calls from Martins SIM and names and addresses of all
subscribers or current locations of the all those numbers on Martins call-log.'
The pressure on Rita was apparent, and justifiably so. She had just returned from
Joshi's office, updating her supervisor of the days events. There was no way under the
sun even the subfusc Mumbai one at the moment they could keep the news of
murder under wraps. The media had to be briefed.
The AirMobile Chief Executive personally called the Ops Room to update Rita. He

wanted to emphasise they were with the police, and that any assistance sought would be
provided. He was dedicating one of the senior personnel from his companys PR team to
be responsible for all related enquiries. AirMobile, as good corporate citizens, had
agreed to help ipso facto, as this was in continuation of the murder investigation. It took
a while, but they eventually furnished the list of calls made by Joseph Martin.
Rita's hunch hadn't been totally speculative. Martin had erased a call from the calllog from his mobile on the evening of his murder: a local mobile number; the number
another pay-as-you-go without any personal details on file was currently switched
off. It was last used around six in the morning near Santa Cruz airport. Maybe the mobile
phone and its owner were travelling. Advancing the same hypothesis, AirMobile was
asked to provide call log of the switched-off phone. Four calls had been made from the
phone since it had received a call from Martin the evening before. Two were
subscribers, their details on file. One was yet another unlisted pay-as-you-go number.
Fishy. The fourth call had been made to Martin within ten minutes of Martins call.
To confirm the rendezvous perhaps?
Working back through the two known subscribers, the police established the owner
of the phone Martin had called was one Mr Al Khan, a local photographic studio owner
specialising in portraits for female models. Sources revealed he was single, in his early
thirties, and he had flown to Delhi in the morning for purchases, and should be back in a
couple of days. His studio and residence were on files now to be investigated on his
return.
The untraceable number Al Khan had called immediately after he had received the
call from Martin had been purchased from a shop in Bhendi Bazaar a few weeks ago.
The day after Hegde's arrest, to be precise. No calls had ever been made by it; it had
been switched off almost immediately after purchase. Similar story. It was being used to
forward the calls to another untraceable number.
'No one calls either numbers. We need to know where this phone is.' Rita was
clearheaded.
It was possible that Khan and Hegde had the same contact Malti or Julie? and
when Hegde got arrested, the killer arranged for a new number for the tele-pimps across
town. At least, Rita thought, they were on the right track. How long was the track before
they could get to the killer was still uncertain. Maybe Khan was another tele-pimp.
Maybe not.
The media maggots had already thronged the site of the latest murder. Restricted by the
police tape there, they were updated by Vile Parle SHO regarding the unlawful death of
one Mr Joseph Martin.
Who killed him?
How long will the police sit and keep polishing their bangles?
In Mumbai, as in India, bangles carried the connotation of unmanliness. With this
investigation headed by a woman, it was a direct assault. The media pillory had begun.
The hyenas just loved to sink their teeth in the police flesh. And much as the police
would have preferred to keep this one as a separate murder investigation, the scribes, on

their own, conjectured it was the job of the serial killer: He had struck again.
The police just weren't releasing any information. They werent attempting to hide
facts; they just didnt want to stand at the podium answering needless questions at this
point.
The entire media fraternity had one question on their lips; the answer to which they
would have preferred in a yes or a no. Was it a serial killer? Yes or no? To their dismay,
the Commissioner of Mumbai Police, on the advice of Joshi, issued a short statement:
"We shall only release information of exoteric nature when we can. We cannot put
the investigation in jeopardy."
In sixty years since Independence, no one had ever dared to challenge a statement
from Commissioner of Mumbai Police. In any event, most had definitely gained a new
word in their vocabulary: exoteric.
There was a possibility that Al Khan would have more information regarding the
location of the number he had called to source the girl for Martin. The plan concocted
was to make Khan call the unknown call-forwarding number in police presence to check
where the phone got picked up. Then trace it back to the location, if possible. If the killer
didn't know about how far the police had got to, he might just might be caught
unawares. For the plan to progress, it needed contrivance. The police would have to
provide the killer with false info that they were looking somewhere else. If the maniac
had killed again, it was only logical to assume he'd need the gratification of being in the
media. Omnia Vanitas: vanity, thy games are strange.
NEWS of the DAY was eager to oblige. It was, to them, setting a trap for the police.
Anita Raizada was called in for the briefing at Crawford Market. Jatin and Anita sat
exchanging pleasantries in Rita's office when the hostess returned to her desk.
Anita was raffish, but smartly attired. White shirt tucked in, grey skirt. Delicate and
feminine. It wasnt difficult to comprehend why Jatin liked the girl. They made a goodlooking pair. The image of their togetherness filled Ritas mind. If they ever bred, theyd
produce beautiful kids. She pulled her mind back from the unproductive thoughts on
reproduction and briefed Anita. 'We're really grateful for this, Miss Raizada'
'You don't have to be so formal, everyone calls me Anita.'
Rita looked at Jatin. 'I think you should take Anita out for dinner, at state expense,
and drop her back to her office. We owe her this much at least.'
Jatin obviously required no persuasion.
Anita broke down when they finished dinner and on Jatin's insistence narrated the sordid
episode that had occurred in Narang's office. Of course, it was unforced, but it wasn't
voluntary nonetheless. If she wanted the job, she needed to give in to Narang's seduction.
She didn't have any prior experience as a journalist, had no work references whatsoever,
and Narang was exploiting her inadequacies shamelessly. Narang had, in his own words,
given her a prized assignment and required her to pay him in this way.
Scoundrel, Jatin thought, but couldn't fathom how he should approach the issue. As a

police officer, he could only intervene if Anita made a formal complaint. As a friend,
though, he could help her out of the ugly situation. How?
'If you could come up to the office today, rather than dropping me there, it might
help.'
'How would that help?'
'I mean he won't attempt doing anything stupid with you around.'
'You want me to hang around in your office while you finish this news item?' She
nodded.
'This is gross.'
'This is life.'
'Would it help if you introduce me as your boyfriend?'
'Do you want to be my boyfriend?'
'I meant '
'I know you mean well, but I wouldn't want to tarnish your reputation by linking your
name with me. You're a nice man, Jatin.'
'Why would you say that? You're a pretty girl, don't let an instance of rapeabuse
scar you Anita.'
'It wasn't that one instance.'
'What else is there?'
'There were others. I don't want you to get involved.'
'Your parents know about this?'
'I live alone, my parents are no more.'
'Sorry.'
'Why should you be sorry for their death?'
Jatin parked the jeep in the building compound. Not many vehicles were around at 9
p.m. They got down, took the elevator to the seventeenth floor.
Narang was still in his office. He had had a few vodkas in anticipation of seducing
Anita at his desk. What possible excuse could she have to decline his advances tonight?
'Hi Amit,' Anita yelled from her desk when he saw his head pop out of his office.
'Meet Inspector Jatin Singh from Crime Branch.'
What the fuck, Narang wanted to yell, but he smiled, walked up to Anita's desk and
proffered his hand. His gaze was lecherous. 'Nice to see you've come to our humble
office to oversee if we're doing our jobs diligently.'
'Just in case something changes, the duty officer would relay the message to me.'
Well fibbed Inspector. Anita smiled. It, nevertheless, had busted Narang's conniving
plot. He had wasted three hours in the office, waiting for a fuck. 'Is it okay if I leave?
I've got to meet someone. I hope you don't mind.'
'Not at all,' Jatin assured.
Narang shook hands with Jatin and Anita. His slight glowering, as he looked into
Anita's eyes, didn't go undetected by Jatin. It conveyed Anita's despair and he decided to
raise the issue with Rita; a woman might understand such issues better, know how to
handle this more delicately

As Jatin sat on the next desk and saw Anita typing apace, he noticed Narang locking
his office. 'Good night,' he uttered before stamping out.
Anita finished typing by 10:40 p.m. She printed two copies and the duo read the text
for exactness: the killer hadn't left anything to chance; the police were clueless besides
two Dubai numbers. Mumbai Police had agreed in light of so many speculations
that it was the same killer that had killed two respected citizens in the previous month.
The hunt was on, an appeal was made to the public to be vigilant, stay alert and report
anything suspicious to their local police station immediately. The whole chapter and
verse on finding a new number that could, potentially, lead to Malti, Julie or someone
was prevented from going public. In fact, that was something the police had kept back
even from NEWS of the DAY.
Anita signed the final text and e-mailed the Word and PDF files to the publishing
press for the morning's paper. As instructed by Rita, a one-page summary of the same
story was faxed to Press Bureau of India to circulate to other news desks.
'You can't imagine what you've done for me tonight. I would have been here for, at
least, another thirty minutes.' Anita carefully dodged saying what she would have been
made to do for the additional half-hour; the unmentionable was comprehensible for Jatin.
'Let me drop you home now.'
'It's OK, I'll call a taxi.'
'It's on my way. Come on.'

NINETEEN
2007
It hadn't stopped pouring the entire night. The rain had been teeming down, without any
break, on the tarmac and asphalt with ferocity. Water strokes on the ledges made the
window frames vibrate. Even pet cats, that usually preferred nocturnal outdoors, were
domesticated to avoid getting their furs wet. But no one objected; it was monsoonal, not
untimely, and July usually had always been the wettest month in Mumbai.
Rita had let the window open for the whiff of the moist air, but the showers outside
had started squalling, and the noise impelled her to leave the bed sometime after
midnight to close it. Raindrops caught in beams of streetlights coruscated like shards of
rainbow. She saw the plainclothes policeman, sitting in his unmarked car, on duty
outside the apartment; she turned, took a sip of water from the carafe she kept at her
bedside and glanced at the clock.
12:12 a.m. If anything, she thought, the killer would think twice before stepping out
on a night like this; it was easy to leave a wet footprint behind, or drop a wet hair. The
thought of the murderer unwittingly propelled her brain into wakefulness. How long
would they have to wait till this undeviatingly accurate killer made any mistakes? Five
more murders? Ten? A hundred? It was turning into a career-destroying case if all the
police could do was to wait for the killer to make an error. And what were the odds he
would make a mistake if he had successfully avoided making one thus far? Except for
precedence and theory that everyone eventually made an error, there was nothing. She
reckoned she was going around in circles or curlicues and that never got anyone
out of a maze.
The debunking of leaving the brassiere at the murder site pointed her mind towards
the possibility of a female killer once again. Why was the killer determined to lead them
astray? Or was he she giving them some clue? People were strange; the more one
delved into human nature, the more weirdness one discovered. What if the killer was
trying to draw the police's attention to something? Helping police catch him. Or her?
Suddenly, Rita wasn't sure of the gender. Ash could have been correct when he said that
the killer was hoodwinking to save his skin, but how certain could Ash have been? It
was a mere supposition. Rita's guts and official stats were, once again, at war:
It had to be a female; why would whoremongers go willingly with a man? It
couldn't be a female; females didn't indulge in torturous killings.
She looked at the clock again and did the maths; it would still be around 8 p.m. in the
UK. It wasn't late to call, but a thought crossed her mind: Joshi had only introduced Ash
as a consultant; there wasn't any formal arrangement between Mumbai Crime Branch and

a random criminal profiler from the UK. It might be crossing the confidentiality line.
Could she trust him as a friend?
She did.
'Keeping you awake, am I?' Ash had the knack of being upbeat every hour of the day.
'You're correct, I can't sleep. But it has more reasons than just you.'
'At least I am one of the many. What else is keeping my baby up?'
'Since when did I become your baby?'
'Figure of speech, dear girl, figure of speech.'
Ash's travel plans had firmed up. He would be in Mumbai in four days. Rita updated
on the latest murder, but did not divulge on any calls traced back to Al Khan. She
decided to seek advice and not share the investigation.
Ash was convinced that the killer was a male, despite Rita's hunch. 'Let me rethink.
Let's catch up when I'm in Mumbai.'
'Sure.'
Jatin gave a rundown on Anita's squalid incident to Rita. He was careful to update her
when she was alone. It wasn't a great experience to share; especially about Anita who he
cared for, whether she acknowledged it or not. Rita could feel the pain, the hurt, and was
of the same opinion as Jatin that Anita should stand for herself and make a complaint. It
was beyond sexual harassment, it was almost rape. 'Why is she taking it?'
'Fear. Fear of job loss, lack of experience to get another one... Narang, you know, is
connected and is quite capable of destroying her career.'
'That's preposterous. I can bring Narang here for rape and see to it that he never
fucking uses his filthy dick again.' Rita lost it. 'Ask her to lodge an FIR, a formal
complaint, and not tolerate any such thing again, please. And tell her to feel free to talk
to me whenever she wants.'
'I didnt tell her I'll have a word with you, so it will be great if you dont mention it
till I speak with her please.'
'As you say. Are you romantically involved with her?'
'Inclined, I would say.'
'Pretty girl, I hadn't seen her from close up earlier, but when we met the other day, I
noticed a pinch of sadness in her eyes. She didn't seem okay, is she well?
'Why do you ask that ma'am?'
'She looked very pale. Is she anaemic? Ask her to get her haemoglobin count
checked.'
Al Khan arrived in Mumbai in the evening, two days after Martin's murder. His flight
arrived at 6:25 p.m., but his mobile phone was out of juice. That prevented AirMobile to
trace his movements till he arrived at his residence, but by then it was too late.
Khan, in his fifties, lived in Chembur one of the sites where refugee camps were
set up to settle immigrants after Indias partition with Pakistan. Khan's parents, despite
being Muslims, had chosen India as their country because of business interests. The
business, however, went down in the decade following Independence. Khan spent his

childhood in a chawl one of the many derelict Mumbai tenements where humans
housed like insects grew up with other unfortunates and lowlifes and lived a life of
penury. Khans father left him a small photo studio, which he had expanded to a studio
and photo-developing lab and made more money in a year than what his father made in
his entire lifetime. Or so it seemed.
Khan paid the taxi driver, got into his apartment and before he switched on the lights,
he sensed an outline of someone present. 'Who the fuck ?' was all he managed to utter
before the bullet hit him between his brows. One shot through the muffler-fitted nozzle of
a Glock.
AirMobile received the first signals from Khan's mobile at 10:31 p.m. and then they
disappeared from the radar. They located the phone in Chembur area and provided the
exact coordinates to Jatin at Crawford Market.
Rita drove to the address, which turned out to be Khan's studio. The phone had
apparently been plugged in briefly before being disconnected from the wall plug and put
into a glass full of chemicals used for developing film photography.
The studio was in a mess. Someone had ransacked the place, like they had searched
the place for something. What? Well, that wasn't challenging to figure out. Under the
semblance of portrait photography for aspiring women keen to try their luck in
modelling, Khan wasn't exactly running a salubrious outfit. The cameras fitted in
changing rooms, and the photographs of girls in various stages of undress corroborated
that he was, unmistakably, taking indecent photographs of wannabe models without their
permission and knowledge. To be used for blackmailing. If some girl became a model,
she'd fund Khan's lifestyle all her life; if an unlucky one didn't make it, she could be
made to peddle her ass whenever ordered. Khan was a winner either way.
Whoever had rummaged through the studio was after something that could potentially
have been damaging for him. Or for someone he knew. It was impossible to know if the
person found what he had come looking for. There was no way to establish if something
had gone missing. At least not on the spot.
Khan's stiff was found a kilometre away at his residence. Shot at point-blank. The
gun, manifestly, wore a muffler if no one around had heard the shot. So someone had
killed him at his residence, then broken into his studio and left his mobile phone there?
'Quite a coincidence,' Jatin expressed to Rita and Vikram. 'That Khan was killed for
some indecent photographs, just when he was crucial to our enquiry.'
Was Jatin really so credulous? Rita almost said. Instead, she heard her voice saying,
'You think so?'
'This is no coincidence, I agree ma'am.' Vikram understood the point and Rita's
inflection in the question. 'If all the killer wanted were some photographs, and he knew
Khan was not in town, he only needed to break into the studio, which he eventually did,
albeit he used Khan's keys. Why kill him?'
'It's the same maniac killer, Jatin.' Rita was in no frame of mind to discuss something
that was so obvious to the eye. 'He is intelligent enough to have realised that we would
go after Khan, and hence he eliminated the chain of evidence. The reason he raided the

studio was to do away with something that could incriminate him.' Rita looked at Jatin;
he nodded. Whether he understood Rita's train of thought, or simply accepted his
superior's logic, was unfathomable. 'Why else would he have plugged in Khan's phone to
charge for a minute to send out the signal to the AirMobile tower and then destroy the
phone ' Rita stopped mid- sentence. In her mind, she repeated what she had just said
aloud. Her mind raced with a conjecture at the speed of light and didn't last longer than
lightning. Flash, then gone. She puckered her lips, her eyes looked towards the ceiling as
if she was gathering her thoughts. 'He knew our plan. The son of a bitch knew we'd come
for Khan using AirMobile coordinates, and then try to reach the number Khan had called.
Which means Khan knew more than Hegde, and that cost Khan dearly. The mobile phone
was switched on briefly to taunt us, flag his victory again.'
'How could the killer know what we had planned?' Vikram asked as they drove to
the Forensic labs.
'Don't know. Either the sick fucker is too sharp or he was tipped off yet again.'
The bullet was confirmed as a 9x19 calibre. Forensics confirmed the abrasions on the
bullet to verify it came from the same gun used for the three previous murders. Same
Glock Compact.
This murder, though with the same weapon, was dissimilar to the other three in more
ways than one. The killer hadn't mutilated the body; Khan hadn't been drugged. And
although the killer might have known Khan, the latter hadn't let the killer in himself,
which was evident, as the main door lock had been picked. Fresh scuffs, slight but
apparent. The killer obviously knew Khan wasn't at home when he broke into the
victim's ground floor apartment, and lay in waiting for the latter to arrive. One shot, job
done.
'Coffee in my office. Ask Jatin to join us.' It was more of a directive than an offer and it
sounded like a superior telling her subordinate. The two had only returned to Crawford
Market from the laboratory. Vikram nodded and split to get Jatin, who had come straight
from Chembur to start the paper work.
Rita switched on the kettle and beckoned the two officers to sit as they came into her
office. The office was quiet; the usual cacophony of office clatter was conspicuously
missing at 3 a.m. 'That Khan was shot down by the same maniac killer is now beyond
doubt, the most important evidence being the bullet that was shot from the same gun.
Case closed.' Rita kept the three coffees at the desk and sat down. 'At this moment, only
three people in this office know about this. And I want it to stay within this small group.
Of course we shall let the core team know, but not a word to anyone outside the task
force, not even to the uniformed police. I'll update Mr Joshi, and he'll decide if he wants
to update the Commissioner.'
'Why do you think the killer changed the MO?'
'It seems this one was unplanned. My guess is Khan wasn't on his register to kill, at
least not for now, so he either added Khan to the list or jumped the queue. That gave him
less time to plan the murder in too much detail. And that gives me a reason to think he

might have blundered...maybe,' Rita added.


The two men nodded in agreement.
'Actually, I am now beginning to wonder about the gender of this killer.' Rita
recognised she was turning turtle; the theory that, so far, had pointed to the predator
being male was itself being questioned.
Frowns developed on the two mens foreheads to concentrate on what was coming
Then eyebrows raised, eyes squinted; Vikram and Jatin looked at one other.
'All the four murders thus far have been done in connection with sex. Sex with
prostitutes or, as the investigation in the last murder found, Khan's unscrupulous business
tactics of luring women into being photographed in questionable circumstances. That
shouldn't leave any ambiguity that whoever is killing is retaliating against some injustice
against women, prostitution '
'But it could be a male working on behalf of a woman,' Jatin interrupted.
'It's highly uncharacteristic of a hired killer to show such passion when doing a job.
Why should he dissect bodies? As this is only a surmise, I am not sharing this with
anyone but you two. The criminal profiler Mr Joshi introduced me to, a while back
Dr Mattel is coming to town again, and I shall seek his expert opinion.' Rita kept a
straight face; she had no intentions of letting her countenance reveal Ash would be
staying with her on his visit. 'If he confirms what my instinct's telling me, we shall share
it with others.'
Nods again.
Rita sat alone thinking that if her conjecture was correct, all bets were off; the killer,
who so far had been believed to be male, could be anyone. She knew that the guys
weren't getting killed arbitrarily; the murders were not as indiscriminate as they had at
first appeared. This mlange too, like the chaos theory, would develop some
recognisable pattern over time, as it didnt look like complete frenzy; the killer was in
complete control. He or she was picking the targets and though some similarities had
emerged in victims, situations there were still many unknowns, and it was hard to
work out the pattern.
The only silver lining was that if the expert tidings weren't disclosed to the media,
the police could control some damage; there was a high probability that the media might
not connect the latest murder to the previous three because of the killer's divergence
from Modus Operandi.

TWENTY
1991
Irony (n): Incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs.
The first free parliamentary elections took place in Russia. Nine years late. Only
nine years earlier, Margaret, Viviane and Deborah had wanted to escape from the Red.
The Red that was now fading and, with two of them dead, Margaret was still working in
the red-light district. Ironical, too, that Junior the illegitimate grandson of Bir Desai,
one of the most feared men in Mumbai was at the mercy of a small-time pimp, and had
to be shifted from a bordello to an orphanage.
Junior was a precocious child; he comprehended the perceptible changes promptly,
the change in attitudes of other girls in the Club, and of Pathak and Hina towards him
early on.
He no longer had a room, as Viviane's room was allotted to a new girl who had been
lured into this place from some Far Eastern Indian state. Sikkim, they had said. Red-hot
piece, someone had remarked.
Margaret accommodated Junior in her room for wash and personal hygiene, kept his
clothes, allowed him into her room during office hours if the client didn't mind the little
boy's presence. Junior spent the rest of the hours of the never-ending days in the
anteroom where most men referred to him as whoreson. They made him run small
errands to rooms if anything was required last minute: cigarettes, soda, alcohol,
condoms.
Pathak decided Junior had to leave.
There was a parochial orphanage close to Mount Mary Steps in Bandra that
provided shelter and education to those deprived and needy, but they usually only took
juvenescent boys; over eight was a precondition and Jay Desai Junior was about half
that age
Pathak corrupted people with money. End of January 1991, Junior, now four years
and a few months, was transported to the Bandra orphanage under the cover of darkness
without the slightest inkling to Margaret or anyone else. He just disappeared. Margaret
asked, but was unsympathetically snubbed. Insofar as Pathak was concerned, he had
discharged his responsibility. He had put out feelers to Bir Desai if the ageing patriarch
wanted a successor, but nothing came back. He couldn't waste any more time and money
on a bastard.
Although he was tall for his age three feet eight Junior, isolated and homeless,
howled all through his first day at the orphanage. He was given a small individual room
for he was too young to be accommodated with older boys who might have taken

advantage of him, bullied him. The stentorian cries softened by the second day and
turned to sobs as the week advanced and he became resigned to a life in the place,
getting conditioned to living alone in his room. Except for mealtimes and school, he was
virtually incarcerated. His custodian was a Mr Fernando who was an avuncular man,
polite and apparently considerate towards Junior.
Fernando was in his fifties; a celibate rector of the orphanage, he had worked in the
orphanage for over three decades.
Late one night, after the first week had passed, Mr Fernando called in to check on
Junior in the room. Finding him sobbing, he asked the boy to join him in the little study;
he said they would pray together. Junior had never been in the study before, and walked
behind Mr Fernando, who closed and locked the room as they walked in.
Wainscoted in dark chestnut, uncovered parquetry floor in oak and mahogany with
small centre white rectangular inlays pretentiously posing as ivory, the study was dark
except a small lamp on the corner table, which elongated their shadows and made Junior
smile. This orphanage had indeed seen better times. An ancient mammoth solid ebony
wood table, now decrepit, stood in a far corner near the only window in the room.
'You know Pathak ' Mr Fernando began, reclining against the huge table.
'Pathak bhai.' No one had dared call him or mentioned his name as Pathak in Junior's
presence.
'Yes. He told me you spent time with your mother in her room when men came to see
her.' He beckoned Junior to come closer, stand between his open legs.
Nod. Yes.
'So you know what your mum did?'
Nod. Old memories of men balling up his mother started flooding Juniors sleepy
brain.
'She was a whore. You know what a whore is?'
Junior had heard the word from Pathak and his friends in the anteroom countless
times, and somehow gathered it had a negative association.
'So what does that make you?' Mr Fernando didn't wait for a response. 'A
whoreson?'
Junior's eyes were filled with fear. No, it was torment. Rage. Why was Mr Fernando
festering his wounds, exhuming undesired memories?
'And now I'll make you my whore.'
The sick Mr Fernando unzipped his fly and took out his penis. 'You should know
what to do with it. Come on, kneel down in front and take it in your mouth like your
mother, you bastard.' He held Junior's head tightly in place till he forced the little boy to
swallow the last drop. 'If you even so much as mention this to someone, you see that
cane? I will flog you so much it'll rip off your skin. And don't worry your brainless head
about me finding an excuse. You understand that?' Canes made of bamboo sat in an
umbrella stand close to the table. So this was what caused boys to scream; Junior had
heard some cries a few nights back. He nodded and left when Mr Fernando was zipped
up and ready. He patted Junior on his head. 'Good boy.'

Tears of disgrace flowed till late in the night, as Junior lay awake staring at the dirtycobwebbed ceiling of his room. If he ran away, where could he go? Beg on the streets?
Live where? What was the certainty someone else wouldnt demean him? Should he
complain to someone tomorrow? The insidiousness he had seen in Mr Fernando's eyes
haunted him for the rest of the night and sent frissons down his little spine. Afraid of the
unknown, of what lay in store for him, he cowered in his bed. His little brain was inept
to fathom what the ensuing days and nights would bring.
Lust is a stubborn companion. Mr Fernando appeared in his room again the next
night. And two nights later when Mr Fernando took him to the study and made him strip,
there were two more men in the study. Mr Fernando was, now, making money off Junior.

TWENTY-ONE
2007
Bhim Yadav was a regular traveller to Mumbai, a recruitment consultant in his late
thirties who flew in from Gurgaon almost once a quarter to oversee the Mumbai chapter.
Though many businesses had relocated to Gurgaon, in the north, some key clients in the
financial industry still remained here; some were too big to move, others were severely
cash-strapped at the moment.
After concluding his last meeting at a client's office in BKC Bandra Kurla
Complex around seven-thirty that evening, Yadav called for a cab and looked
forward to retiring for the day with a drink. His assistant had booked him at ITC Grand
Maratha, which was his usual address whenever he was in Mumbai. He dialled a
number from his mobile as the driver negotiated through the painfully slow traffic on
BKC Road. After unsuccessfully trying the number a few times, he gave up; the number
seemed to have been disconnected. But, he didn't give up his quest for a hooker for the
night. As the car turned from BKC Road into LBS Road, Yadav asked the taxi driver,
'Any chance you know some place I could get a girl for a few hours?'
The driver looked in the rear view mirror to observe Yadav carefully. Businessman.
Alone in the city. Didn't look like a policeman running a sting operation, which was his
main fear. 'What kind girl?' he asked in his taxi drivers vernacular.
'Anyone, but some nice girl. I have a number to call, but it appears to have changed.'
'Which number you have?'
'It's a mobile number. I used to call someone called Malti who had a great flock, and
she obliged every time.'
'Aha' the driver exclaimed. 'Malti's number changing. You trying...' With one hand
on the steering wheel, he pulled out his mobile and read out the number. '982...'
Yadav withdrew his wallet, extracted two hundred-rupee notes and handed over to
the driver.
'Bus kya sahib?' the driver grudgingly expressed, "just this much", in his Mumbai
lingo.
Yadav was prepared that the driver would ask for more. He pulled out another two
hundred and gave it to the driver.
'Want condom?'
'No thanks.'
'Enjoy sahib. Malti's girls very costly. At least take twice.' He winked and advised
Yadav while he took the baggage out of the car's boot.
Jatin had taken Anita out for a dinner date to "Not Just Jazz By The Bay". The restaurant

on Marine Drive waterfront was once known as Jazz By The Bay; that was when they
only played Jazz. Shift in music tastes had forced them to rename the place to attract a
younger crowd.
Their soups were over when Anita's mobile, kept on the table, buzzed. Jatin
unintentionally glanced at the caller ID: Auntie. Anita apologised and looked at Jatin
who, with a nod, gestured at her to take the call.
Hello auntieno you didntjust having dinner witha friendnot at all yes
we can talk nowwhenno dont bother calling anyone elseIm surereallynot a
problem. Thankswill call you later. Bye. Anita switched off the phone. Sorry, she
told Jatin.
Thats OK. I didnt know you had an auntie.
Yes, and shes not well. Her caretaker hasnt turned up for the night, so she was
wondering if I could, maybe, stay with her tonight.
Oh, shes in Mumbai then.
Yes, in Mahim.
Should we leave now?
No, lets eat the dinner weve ordered. There is no rush, its only nine.
I can drop you at Mahim, its on my way.
No, Ill go to my apartment first to collect my stuff. Just drop me there.
Bhim Yadav, regrettably, couldn't heed the driver's advice. According to the
pathologist's estimate, he died somewhere between 11 p.m. and midnight. Cause of death
was later confirmed as Class IV Haemorrhage: severe bleeding. His genitalia had been
butchered with a 4-inch serrated knife. He had been drugged with Chloral Hydrate. A
9x19 slug was put into his head, revealed the post-mortem. The killer did not employ
any charade to point towards a female killer in this instance, and neither did he or she
take the body part away as a souvenir. What was missing from the scene was Yadavs
mobile phone, without which because it was a roaming SIM from a Delhi network
it was impossible to trace any calls made or received.
ITC Grand Maratha was surrounded by enough police to stop a mutiny for the second
time in as many months.

TWENTY-TWO
2007
Rita had run her theory of the killer being a female past Ash, but, initially, he was
unsure if he agreed with her. Although he bought into the evidence that all the murders
had been in connection with girls and prostitution, and also concurred with Rita that the
killer was too passionate to be carrying out a job on someone elses behalf, he wasnt
convinced it was a female doing the execution.
The roots of the crimes look deeper than we might have originally thought, Rita.
They lie deep in the past, and you might need to time travel to get there. The fervour
shown by the killer was forcing Ash to rethink.
What do you mean with that woolly line?
I have an uncanny feeling these murders possibly have a motive. The killers
demonstrating his or her anger, frustration; its not a fantasy as we deliberated before.
But for a woman, I'd put a wager on vendetta; revenge for past humiliation, degradation
at hands of men, rape or justice wronged or some such thing. It could be of self or some
family member. Or both. The cruelty and savagery, though, make me lean towards self.
Rita looked nonplussed, not because she didnt believe Ash, but if there had been a
motive behind the killings, Mumbai Police should have picked up some scent.
'There could have been other reasons too childhood abuse, tyrant parent or
substance abuse some start as peeping toms and graduate to killing and rape; others
especially avengers, which in this case looks very likely start from the top and stay
there. Children, most children can't completely comprehend such things till the age of
four or five, but the subconscious records it, and, for some unfortunate ones, replays it
later in life. The partial reminiscences are, by then, obviously jaundiced by their
experiences over the years.
But, if sheor he was wronged at some point in life, why start the killings now?
Even though sex, violence and death may have, unknowingly but inextricably, coalesced
in the little mind years ago, something, some similar event recently, could have sparked
the madness. And because you havent yet discovered any of his past crimes does not
indicate hes never killed before. Recidivism is extremely common amongst such
people.
They might commit some crime, then in a rational moment repent, determine not to
repeat, but when the ghosts of the past come calling, it doesn't take much persuasion to
regress. Its not very different from a cocaine addict. Killing is an addiction, for some
it's a sport, for some it's a fulfilment. I can assure you he has a lust for blood now. The
beast doesnt change. There are various theories and examples. It would be virtually

impossible to put a finger on which need these killings are satiating for this murderer
You mean
I dont mean it is cast in granite, but you might find hes killed before and escaped.
Hes only now got obsessed with killing, which will lead him to his destruction sooner
rather than later.
Rita smiled. The police didnt have a clue who or where the killer was; how were
the killings moving this demented killer towards his destruction? He might have
escaped before, but how does he think he can escape now, after killing five?
You seriously think I can answer that Rita?
Rita smiled again. It was providential to find a good old friend who was a
psychoanalyst; she didnt feel thick asking questions.
August. Ash Mattel had returned to London. As per his promise, he lodged with Rita on
his Mumbai trip and did little else, giving Rita the impression she was the sole purpose
of his visit. Which was a good feeling, but, as Rita had expected, it had no prospects.
It was nearing two months since the Adit Lele case, and Mumbai Police was none
the wiser after five murders than it was after the first. There had been no breakthrough. It
had been over three weeks since the last murder at ITC Grand Maratha. The killer had
apparently gone off into hibernation again.
The evening was balmy; Rita had the windows open to let some cool breeze in. The
monsoon had moved north now, leaving Mumbai humid. She had had a busy day at work
and planned to unwind with a book, but lurid images of the murders kept flashing in front
of her. Jim peered at her from the shelf. She conceded. Taking a sip, she put on the Sufjan
Stevens CD that Ash had got for her on his recent visit, but her mind reflected on the
conversations she had had with Ash. Despite recognising that Ash was a criminal
profiler, and what he said was generic, Ritas mind had been in overdrive ever since he
had underlined the possibility of revenge. Was someone really settling old scores?
The telephone ring disrupted the gentle sound of slight breeze playing the chimes.
How was Ash? It was a voice through the multiplicative scrambler. It sounded
female.
Rita could feel goose bumps on her entire body, but she maintained calm. How have
you been?
I am fine, but you didnt answer me.
Rita was distracted; she had picked up her mobile and was sending a text to Vikram
and Jatin to call up the Duty Officer to trace this call at her residential line. Sorry, Ash
was fine, what do you care?
I careohI care. Why do you think I did not kill when Ash was here? I didnt
want to bother you.
Listen, youre not doing yourself any favours by killing innocent menif you
surrender yourself, I promise Ill try my best that you do not get capital punishment for
your guilt
You think I am guilty? I find it a relief. Heads and tails arent they just different
sides of the same coin, DCP?

What are you trying to prove? Rita carried on, hoping the call could be traced. But
she knew the truth: the voice would have ensured it couldnt be traced. The killer was
much sharper than that.
'You've missed the essence, DCP.' The voice didnt wait for a response. 'Men fuck
these girls because they choose to. The girls fuck because they have no choice. Stupid
laws in the country, and the world over the whore's the one charged by police, not the
fucking tricks, not the pimps, not the men who lure or force women into this ugly
profession. Do you really believe a girl cheerfully walks into this scum to become a
whore? Men run this business for men, a womans body is just a cheap commodity.
But you arent going to cure the world of prostitution? Ill do as much as I can.
How does it help you? Are you one of the unfortunate girls Maybe. But I am
tired. Do you think I want to do this forever? Then why are you doing it? Is someone
forcing you?
Not any more. They forced me when they could, not any more. The malevolence in
the voice was unambiguous.
Rita could feel the rage of someone reminded of past hurt. I feel like killing
someone today, the voice continued.
Please
Tonight. See if you or your entire police force can save this fucker.
Listen
The line went dead.
Rita called Vikram. He had relayed the message to the control room and was waiting
for them to come back to him.
Vikram called back after five minutes. The call was traced to an unsubscribed
mobile number; the location had been traced to Andheri West.
Let Jatin know too.
When Mr Lokhandwala had purchased the marshland for this complex in the late
Seventies, every single property broker had thought the builder had lost his marbles. No
one would want to live so far away from downtown Mumbai, they had argued. Every
single one of those property brokers was proved wrong. Today, it was one of the biggest
housing complexes in Mumbai with even some of the Bollywood glitterati living here.
The vastness of this concrete monstrosity was a challenge for Rita. Even if the murderer
was in Andheri West, and in Lokhandwala, how were the police supposed to guard each
and every door?
Vikram got there soon after Rita, as she sipped tea in the Andheri Police Station. The
SHO had sent out uniformed troops to patrol the area. Everyone recognised this was
meant to be a mere preventive act. If the killer was already in someones apartment, it
was a futile exercise. And how could they apprehend him or her when they didnt even
know the gender of the killer. They couldnt stop every single person on the road.
Their presumption wasnt wrong.
The killer had shot the victim by 10 p.m.
Rita was still with Vikram and Jatin when her mobile rang at a few minutes past

eleven. Blocked caller.


It was the killers voice through the scrambler. You did well DCP, your crony
traced my call to Andheri, but you couldnt stop me, could you? Touch.
The line went dead. The killer obviously had no intentions of talking long enough for
the location to be traced this time.
The body was recovered at three, after a neighbour in Tarapore Towers coming
home after night shift found the front door of Mr Dina Patel ajar. The rest was merely
an encore.
Naked stiff, drugged, butchered, shot once. Despite the fact that the killer knew
police was all around Andheri, he hadnt slipped; he had been cautious not to make any
errors. The only sign, incontestably, was the perfume, the womanly scent Rita and
Vikram had smelt at the site of Adit Leles murder. Rita had a recollection she had had a
whiff of that same smell somewhere else, besides the first murder at Versova. Where?
She had tried focussing on it earlier, but couldnt. And she couldnt put a finger on it
now either. Vikram, how did she know? Rita was part thinking, part talking, her
mind racing all over the place.
What maam?
How did he know we hador rather you had traced the call to Andheri?
There was silence. Silence was good. Rita let it hang in the air long enough for her
to put her floating thoughts together. There was something uncharacteristic, something
aberrant there. There was a fleeting hint of something she had failed to catch. Something
eluded her. How did he know? How did the killer know?
Then it struck, like lightning on a dark night. Sometimes, things aren't immediately
apparent for quite a while, but Rita realised, now, that she had missed the obvious. The
killer was listeningthats how he knew about Hegde, he pre-empted the arrest of Al
Khan, and he knew everything. One thing, as they say, leads to another; you only see
certain things when something else makes you think of it. The scent Rita had had a
trace in her own apartment soon after the first murder when she had returned, when the
killer had, unintentionally, left the lights on. Why didnt she think of it before? Her phone
had been wired. The floodgates of revelations flowed through. Wasnt this the same time
when the phone in the Ops Room had gone dead? That had been wired up too then?
Vikramget to the Ops Room, that phone is bugged. Get the whole place searched.
Rita was in the driving seat already. Her wheels screeched as she took a U turn and
sped away.
It was a frightening reminder of her own mortality, and the unrestricted ambit of her
challenger. The evil genius had established his ingenuity by the act. If he the killer
could get into the apartment of a detective and fit microphones, how vulnerable were his
victims? Rita was unnerved at the discovery of bugs, but more at her own negligence:
how had she not considered it?
How and when did someone wire her flat? The media would have a field day, not to
mention the jokes that would propagate like a viral infection.
Rita suddenly felt suffocated in the bugged house. It was like she wasn't alone

anymore in her own home. She rushed to her personal telephone, but stopped. Ten to one
it was bugged too. Upset at being blindsided, she upended Jim and stormed out of the
flat, slamming the door behind her. As she walked out of the building, she felt a million
eyes following her. Every stranger intrigued her, made her anxious; she had been, for the
first time in her career, challenged on her own turf. Egregious. Livid as she was, she
couldn't help admiring the shrewdness and the damnable nerve of the murderer. The
killers morbid need to kill that had compelled him to bug Ritas apartment.
She went back to her apartment to check her files, though nothing about the case was
at home and her computer had an encryption; the data could not have been accessed. Rita
felt humiliated by the appalling discovery. The idea, she reckoned, wasn't to stop her; it
was to know her plan to be ahead of the game. And the animal had succeeded so far.
She had two choices: to either get her apartment swept of the wires or use this
opportunity to mislead. "Wires found in the DCPs apartment," she reckoned, would
dominate television and newspaper for the next twenty-four hours if not more. But, she
couldnt let the bugs remain in the Ops Room, and that would be a giveaway in any case.
The bugs, therefore, needed to be removed without fanfare, and in the meantime, maybe,
the team could work on the location of the receivers for them.
Bugging Ritas phones wasn't a novel practice. Ash had warned that most serial
killers had, in the past, tried getting close to the investigating body either to overcome
the guilt or out of fear of being caught: some even came forward to help, others
befriended police officers for info, and still others stalked sleuths. Hence, tapping Ritas
phone should have been no surprise, especially when the killer had started playing
games.
The Operation Room phone had been bugged too.
The bugs were made in China. The wireless microphones discovered could transmit
voice data over two thousand feet. The team had to switch off mobiles, computers,
television, and all other electronics to kibosh all radio-frequency interferences to search
for more mikes. There werent any besides two in Ritas apartment, and one in the Ops
Room telephone. As to where these microphones relayed, it was a near impossible task
to unearth. A two thousand feet diametre around Ritas apartment or Crawford Market
could mean several thousand households. That explained the cunningness of the killer.
Rita knew that though they would keep the discovery of the bugs within the police circle
and not let it out to the media, the killer would have known the moment they had
unplugged the microphones.

----------------------------------... I Love you Rachu ...


Dear Frnds pls spread this msg until its reach to my rachu
I thinks see knows my name
Book Downloaded from: EBOOK4IN.BLOGSPOT.COM

TWENTY-THREE
2007
The breakthrough couldn't have come from a more unlikely source.
Recycling had been a custom in India long before the word was coined or the need to
reuse everyday stuff was felt around the world. Every household collected bric-a-brac
like empty glass bottles, plastic jars, daily newspapers and whatnots to convert them
into cash.
There were hawkers who visited localities and residents houses and shops to buy
them and take them for recycling. Old newspapers went into making paper bags for
small-time vendors or for wrapping street side food.
Elvis Pinto, the taxi driver the one who had dropped Bhim Yadav at ITC Grand
Maratha hotel almost a month earlier had stopped to pick up his lunch from a street
side vendor who had packed his on-the-go vada-pau in a month-old newspaper. It was
there, as he wolfed on his eats, that Elvis saw the picture of Yadav. The police had urged
everyone to come forward if they saw or remembered anything that could help the police
close in on the murderer. At the outset, Elvis wasn't keen to walk into a police station
the reputation of local police wasn't any better than an occupying army; they'd ask him
all sorts of unnecessary questions, hassle him, he'd be called several times to various
police stations to repeat his story, maybe even be asked to go to court. He squashed the
stale newspaper into a ball, but didn't throw it out of the window of his car, like he
normally did.
Later, after dropping a passenger at the airport, he got into the taxi queue. Bored, he
lit up a cigarette and unfolded the paper he had thrown in the trash in his car.
Rita Ferreira sounded another fellow Goan to him. He had decided. If he were to
divulge that he was the driver who dropped Bhim Yadav to ITC Grand Maratha on the
latter's last night, it would only be to Rita. Ignoring the blaring horns of other taxis in the
queue, he turned the car around and drove towards Crawford Market.
Even with the best intentions, it took Elvis forty minutes to convince the constable at
the desk that he needed to see DCP Rita Ferreira, but he kept at it relentlessly. When Rita
was messaged that some eccentric taxi driver called Elvis wanted to see her regarding
the murder of Bhim Yadav, Vikram was dispatched to bring him to her office pronto.
Elvis came in, raised his hand to his temples and gave a salute. 'Madam.' Sit down
Elvis. This better be good. Rita was polite but assertive.
Elvis looked at Vikram, who sat down next to him. 'Don't worry, he works in the
same team.'
'You from Goa, madam?' Yes.

Great, madam.
'Yes, but surely that wasnt what you came all the way to ask me, is it?'
'No, no, madam. I know you busy. But we both from Goa so I ask.'
'What do you know about Bhim Yadav?'
'I drop him to hotel.' When?
That night
Rita pressed the buzzer; the office boy appeared out of nowhere, like a genie. She
gestured three with her fingers. Three teas.
Elvis slurped the tea and narrated the events of the night as he drove Yadav to the
hotel. He also gave Rita the much-needed Malti's mobile number.
'Do you, by any chance, have a number for Julie?'
'Same same, different names, different number, same woman.'
No wonder Hegde got the payment from a single source. The two numbers couldn't
have been set up for tax reasons, Rita thought. To misguide punters? 'Thank you Elvis.
Could we do anything for you?' Rita asked.
'Madam, my landlord big bully. Please ask Inspector sahib to visit me in uniform
once.'
'Vikram, please take down Elvis' address and ask local police to help him.'
'Thank you madam.'
Elvis left the building, happy. He had done a good deed, and secured a favour too.
His wife, he knew, would be proud of him.
Chirag tale andhera: "The utmost darkness is under the oil-lamp." Malti's number was
traced to just south of Crawford Market. In Bhendi Bazaar. The police had looked for
her everywhere only to find her behind the bazaar.
An emergency briefing session was called for in the Operations Room at 7 p.m. Rita
solicited views from all the inspectors. One school of thought was to storm the place and
make the arrest. The other, the more practical one, was to glean more info without letting
any slip outside the eight of them. The latter view, though contested by Nene and the two
Mathurs, was to negate the effect in case their entire intelligence had been erroneous.
That being the case, the killer might come down heavily that the police had targeted
prostitutes again.
"Stupid laws in the country, and the world over the whore's the one charged by
police, not the fucking tricks, not the pimps, not the men who lure or force women into
this ugly profession." The killer's words rang in Rita's ears.
In any case, what could the police arrest Malti for? They had no evidence. If the
police started arresting every prostitute in Mumbai for soliciting, there wouldnt be a
vacant cell in any prison.
'Only I shall visit Malti,' Rita said amongst simultaneous rising of eyebrows so high,
a puppeteer may have pulled them up with an invisible string. Her caucus of inspectors
was surprised that she wanted to go alone. The disbelief was contagious; eyebrows rose
and fell like sounds in a choir.
'Are you sure?'

'Is it safe?'
'Take one of us along.'
But Rita was adamant. She explained that she was only going for a chat with Malti. 'I
want you guys to dig up every bit of information on Malti. Use your snitches. I'll tell you
what I get to know after I return.'
The bazaar was more than alive at 8 p.m. when Rita negotiated the narrow, congested
streets of Bhendi Bazaar in her Gypsy. No driver either, she had insisted. Quintessential
small shops lined the street on both sides selling junk jewellery, gemstones, trinkets,
bangles. The businesses here had been passed down as inheritance and so had been the
spaces on the pavement for their vending carts, and for living marriage, birth,
sickness and death, all took place on the pavement. It had been like this since 1947, and
there was little chance it would ever change. Women were still washing clothes at the
communal tap; families that resided under the bridge were getting ready for al fresco
dinner. Generations have lived the dream of making it one day, woken up to the reality,
and carried on determinedly while their elected politicians, having betrayed their trust
for sixty years since Independence, slept in air- conditioned homes. A group of men sat
around a table playing cards, another group sat smoking hookah, drinking rotgut.
Most did honest business. A tarot card reader sat with his clients, a chai-wallah
served tea in the corner. Some didn't: pickpockets, drug addicts, drunkards, pimps
swarmed the area too. Hindi songs blared on someone's radio in one of the shops.
Eunuchs in saris begged at every traffic light, blessed you if you gave them something,
cursed if you didn't. Every eye, at least once, looked at Rita's unmarked Gypsy. Each one
recognised a police vehicle. But everyone carried on with his or her chore seemingly
unaffected by the presence of police.
A policewoman in an area where no policeman dared to visit?
Malti's terraced house in Bhendi Bazaar was derelict; it seemed like the occupier or
landlord had abandoned the building since Pandit Nehru ceased to be the Prime
Minister. At least, from the outside. Rita got down from the Gypsy to an audience of a
thousand eyes.
Without returning any stares, Rita confidently walked to the door and rang the bell.
'Yes?' A young girl, her dcollet neckline showing ample silicon unabashedly, opened
the door. Hardened with time and hard experience, she had long learnt to manage
emotions and expressions. No smile. Lips shut tight like a vault. She looked at Rita like
the latter was some kind of an artefact she didn't like, but she kept any surprise out of her
voice. Rita felt sorry for the girl; she, like Rita, was doing a job. It wasn't exactly her
fault if the gentry didn't like her profession. Many in the city didn't like Ritas profession
either. The girl looked straight at Rita, then suddenly, her eyeballs darted from left to
right and back a few times, like a well-controlled yo-yo, checking if Rita was alone.
Who are you?
'I am looking for Malti.' Rita flashed her ID card.
Trepidation appeared on her face and faded, but the girl didnt say anything, only
beckoned Rita to step in. She bolted the door and led Rita into the lavish living room

and asked her to wait. When the girl disappeared into the house, Ritas eyes absorbed
the place, the decor of which was in congruence with the outdoors; it, too, must have
been last updated in the Sixties, albeit it was much better maintained. The paint had
faded, and in places peeled off. The furniture was well used, but it wasn't broken or
torn. The dark curtains were pulled down to stop prying eyes from looking in. There was
no chance of this place getting sunlight in the day either. The room felt as if it hadn't been
aired for years, maybe decades.
Iridescent lighting gave away that it wasnt a home, or perhaps sought to express that
deliberately. After all, those visiting this place werent desirous of being at home. Isnt
the proscribed always more pleasurable?
'How may I help you?' someone asked in the background. A graceful middle-aged
woman dressed in a sari walked in. Margaret Flynn had been waiting for this day the
day she could see the police for a quarter of a century. Sure, she had seen lots of offduty policemen who came for free fucks, but not someone who came on duty. Her
misadventure had cost her two younger friends their lives. She, being the one who had
planned everything and having failed the two, found her conscience burdened with
Deborah's and, then, Viviane's suicide. After the death of Pathak, the Cuffe Parade
bordello had shut down in the mid- Nineties. Margaret, working her way through the
prostitution hierarchy, had eventually retired from being a hooker herself and become a
Madame. What other options did she have? There was no way back to a free Russia, she
didn't even have a passport. The London dream the trio had had when they had set out in
1982 had replaced her sleep with a million waking nights, staring at the ceiling while
tricks rode her.
'There have been murders all around the city and '
'What have I got to do with murders? I thought you had come to help.' Margaret lit up
a cigarette and took a drag.
'Help?'
'My friends and I were pushed into prostitution twenty-five years ago. Our fault? We
trusted people; we thought the nightmare would end when the police found out. Some
policemen came following their lust, the bastards. No one helped. Why have you come
now?'
'Where are your friends?'
'They died.'
'You're not Indian.'
Despite Margaret's aged ruddy skin, several-shades-darkened complexion, and her
impeccable Mumbai diction, Ritas brain could discern the difference under the surface.
Margaret took another drag. She responded with an expressionless stare for some time,
and then gave a fake smile and responded after a nice, calculated pause. 'What makes
someone an Indian? I've spent more years of my life here than anywhere else. Yes, I was
Margaret once, but it doesn't matter now.'
So she was right, Rita made a mental note: Margaret. Where was this headed was
her concern. What bothered Rita was why? Why was it said at all? It wasn't unwittingly

dropped. She was intelligent enough to see it was an attempt to outsmart her, manipulate
the conversation by implanting other tales. She realised she required to take the
conversation back to the purpose she had come here for. 'As I was saying, six men have
been murdered...hold on,' Rita told Margaret as the latter had opened her mouth to say
something. Each one of these men were in someway associated with you; they made
contact with you either directly or indirectly.
'And you think someone killed them because they banged one of my girls?'
'It's a possibility. Don't you think so?'
'Could be a mere coincidence.'
Six men? You'd think there was a terminal point in coincidences. I shall name them.
Just tell me if you know any one of them: Adit Lele...' Margaret reflected for a
minute. 'No.'
'Samir Suri.'
'No.'
'Joseph Martin.'
'No.'
'Al Khan. Bhim Yadav. Dina Patel.'
'No. No. No. I have clients all over Mumbai. Some of them call for our services only
once in a lifetime and some don't even give their real names. How do you expect me to
know or remember any of the names?' The hesitation was momentarily there, but
Margaret carefully controlled her face, her expressions. She wasn't a good liar; she was
a better actress. She wasn't willing to give anything away, which, Rita knew, wasn't the
same as not knowing. She was trained to recognise when a person lied. Margaret had
prevaricated, she knew.
'How many girls stay with you here?' Rita looked around and above to explicate.
'Ten, including me.'
Could you give me the whereabouts of all these girls on the days these murders took
place?' Rita knew Margaret and her ilk were notoriously secretive of their rendezvous,
their high-roller clients, but she had to know.
A nod.
Rita pulled out the dates.
Margaret picked up her diary. She carefully provided names and addresses where
every girl was on the dates asked.
'I am not looking for your word for it. I would make checks on every girl's
whereabouts to corroborate the alibi.'
Nod again. 'I know.' Margaret blew smoke rings two or three at a time towards
the stained ceiling, her eyes shouting invective, though the lips did not stir.
'And if anyone of these aren't upheld by these men '
'Many might not be. You think the men who fuck hookers would agree when you ask
them?'
'We got ways to make them talk.'
'Anything else?'

'Not at the moment, but if you remember anything that you think might be relevant,
give me a call please.' Rita handed her card to Margaret, who kept it at the nearby
credenza without looking at it.
'Hope you catch the murderer,' Margaret uttered as she led Rita to the door. 'I will.
This might not be my last visit here.'
'My only request to you is come in the morning. This is business time. Some clients
visit us here.'
'I'll remember that. Good night.'
The door was slammed before Rita took the first step down. Aware of the reduced
crowd, her hand, subconsciously, checked her revolver under the jacket. Thank you,
Smith & Wesson. She boldly walked back to her Gypsy, got in and drove back to
Crawford Market.
"the roots of the crime look deeper than we might have originally thought"
Rita radioed the team to be back in the Operations Room for a briefing. She wanted
the team to start the investigation with the new information at daybreak, and not squander
time coming in for the meeting. Tap all phones in that building landlines and mobiles.
I want every call to be recorded. Ill get Mr Joshi to sign the papers first thing tomorrow
morning, she told Vikram.
The team called it a day sometime after midnight.
Who was Margaret? Or Malti? Where did she come from? Who were her two
friends that were dead? How did they die?
Back at Bhendi Bazaar, Margaret slid open the rear cover of her mobile phone, took out
the SIM card and shred it to pieces with a scissor. Replacing it with another one, she
called out. The police have got the scent she was on the phone. Yesshe got here,
that DCP Ferreirashe thinks we leak informationNo, dont do anything stupidshe
said shell be backand I know all my phones would be wired by morning, so this is
my last call to youyesI have decided to leaveIll be careful, you take care too.
Concluding the call, Margaret destroyed this SIM as well. She was erasing every track
she could.
Rita made a strong demitasse with twice the dose of coffee she normally used. She
had never figured out why she needed coffee to wake up and coffee to sleep. How could
it cut both ways? It was coffee, not a magic potion, she reflected sitting in her office
after everyone had left. She remembered Margaret mentioning twenty-five years since
so the best guesstimate would be to search the archives between 1981 and 1983.
Working with the police database continuously for the next couple of hours, Rita
unearthed more than she or anyone had since the beginning of this investigation.
The 1982 Asian Games, Embassy of USSR issuing a public notice of three missing girls;
the pictures were grainy, they had been scanned from newspaper cuttings, but the
Margaret she had met hours ago had a slight resemblance to Magdalena. What, then,
happened to Dunya and Varinka? If Magdalena had changed to Margaret and Malti, what
had the other two changed to? How did they get to Mumbai, and into prostitution?
Life of a hooker, Rita knew it all: some started early, real early, as if theyd waited

for puberty all along only to peddle ass on streets. It, sure, was illegal but there were
creeps willing to take the risk. For some hookers, it started as experimentation, for some
as a rebellion against norms and family, some others came in for the money. Many were
drugged and sold off. Funny thing this flesh trade was. Most women did not start off as
career hookers; many thought it a stopgap arrangement till they escaped or got their feet
firmly on the ground to move ahead.
Rita pondered over a fresh idea. Getting out of the police archives, she searched for
unnatural deaths of any Russian girls in the Eighties; their deaths in early life could
hardly have been natural. None were reported. Or the person who digitalised old
newspapers might not have considered such deaths to be too significant to fill the
archives. Or, maybe, Margaret hadnt told Rita the complete truth. That she had two
friends had been verified now, but what if they hadnt died. She searched for Dunya. The
only search result generated that had any connection with India was the little news item
published in New Delhi on their disappearance in 1982, and it mentioned all the three
girls.
Search on Varinka + India produced, along with the article of her disappearance,
an old court case in Bombay High Court. In 1990. The case facts mentioned Viviane
Casey surely Varinka must have been mentioned in the case to be picked up by the
search engine.
Viviane. Could Viviane be to Varinka what Margaret was to Magdalena?
Rita closed the public Internet and delved into police archives once more to dig up
the case of Viviane Casey.
She read Viviane's case thrice. And it, suddenly, seemed to start making sense. Sure,
there were gaps, but when had anyone hypothesised without gaps? She persuaded her
exhausted brain that she was finally on the right track; that the provenance of this crime
laid elsewhere. Did Vivianes losing the court case merely send her to the grave, or was
it the cradle for the current murders?
Were her instincts on the wane or was she simply too tired to think? Rita felt a
tremor of fear as she descended the steps to walk to her parked Gypsy at 4 a.m. She
thought shed merely put her feet up for a few hours and return to the office by eight. But,
it was like someone had switched off lights in her brain; sleep was a befitting corollary.
Rita woke up with a start.
Didnt the case report say Viviane had a son? Where was he? More importantly, who
was he?
From whatever she had learnt abandoned by an unknown father and raised by a
prostitute mother, if he had ever witnessed endless men fornicating with his mother in
unnatural ways, his profile matched more than half the serial killers ever apprehended
and charged.
Back at Crawford Market, Rita logged into police archives compassionately
studying how the defence lawyer had brilliantly twisted the misery of Viviane into
ambitious, evil desire for making extra cash. And the irony was that the judge had agreed
that the defence lawyers tale was truer than the naked truth; but better lawyers not

victims won cases, that too based on evidence. That black night, in Mumbai in 1990, had
involved six people: Raja Kumar and friends the enchilada, the moneyed the
soire of well-heeled men who could afford the best lawyer in the city against a tart
peddling her ass. It was never an equal hand at the table and, as such, the dirty game was
decided before the first card was thrown. Vivianes umbrage, understandably, must have
been intense and shocking enough for her to take the dire step.
Maudlin sympathy was voiced, on the back pages, by the media single mum,
immigrant, vice girl with a parochial aspiration to make money who bit off more than
she could chew in one evening. Who would have believed a hooker cry rape?
However, Rita thought purposefully, there was a gap between Viviane's suicide and
her missing son, and the six murders. Pointers and conjectures were, well, mere pointers
and conjectures. It was like a trail ending on one side of the grave and a new one
beginning on the other side; Vivianes son, the only possible link to concatenate the two,
was missing.
Perplexity grows with every missing trail; this was no exception. The most cognitive
factor of advancing the theory of Viviane's son being a suspect was that he seemed the
person with the strongest motive. But Vivianes son was nowhere to be found. He, if at
all alive, was obviously living under an alias and thus not on any database that Rita
could access. However, the son was a man and the mysterious caller that phoned Rita
had been a female. Also, based on surmises, she had convinced herself that the killer
was a female. Ritas dilemma was to reverse her earlier surmise.
As Rita read the case file, she gathered that after the initial kerfuffle, the hoo-ha by
the media, the case had faded into obscurity. The media, sadly or selfishly, turned a blind
eye to her suicide. Now, a quarter of a century later, the ink in the words might have
faded on the crumbled piece of paper or the scanned document, but it had enough weight
to shake up the devil's conscience without making much effort.
Unfortunately, there was no more the police archives could tell Rita about Viviane or
her missing son.

TWENTY-FOUR
1991 2006
Life became one unbroken nightmare for Junior. His body hurt, he lost his appetite,
his childhood, his smile. The twinkle in his eyes was long gone too. He was morbidly
frightened of nights. Though some nights Mr Fernando didn't turn up to defile him or
degrade him by others, the fear persisted nevertheless. On nights when Mr Fernando
didn't take him to the study, he lay awake crying, thinking about how could he get away
from the hellhole. The puerile mind was inept at thinking or devising a plan to escape.
There was no help, no friends he could trust, no one to turn to for advice. He was too
small to fight, too young to subsist on his own if he ran away. If he went back to
Margaret, would Pathak let him stay there? Maybe. But Pathak surely hadn't wanted him
there: wasn't that why he was sent here in the first place? What were his options?
As years passed, Junior's mind sprouted and he grasped the meaning of things that he
hitherto had only dimly understood. Aided by his sordid experiences, he stitched
together the pieces to chronologically process the flashes of pictorial memories what
his mother did...the strange men at nights...the wretched assignations...his mother's
tears...there was some court case...her suicide...her final moments when she lay in a pool
of blood with wrists slashed. Why did she leave him behind to bear this world? But he
never blamed his mother for what had happened. His mind could comprehend that she
had been no more than a pawn like him, shackled by destiny. History had a fucking unfair
custom of repeating itself.
What if his mother hadn't died? The problem, he realised, with asking "what if" was
how far did he need to go back to theorise? Sequentially, what if she hadn't died trailed
what if she wasn't a hooker, which followed what if she hadn't come to this country?
It was moot, idle speculation. In reality, she was dead now and Junior was Mr
Fernando's bitch, as none of the what ifs could be altered.
He contemplated suicide, but never attempted it suicide meant accepting defeat,
when your life beats you. The Bible and he had read the New Testament infinite times
said life was sacred. The world was more than he could see, he figured; there were a
million reasons to live.
Thankfully, Mr Fernando lost interest in Junior. Another unfortunate prepubescent
boy had joined the orphanage, and Junior had seen Mr Fernando shower his avuncular
attention towards the new toy. Junior considered warning the new boy of Mr Fernando's
intentions that were as transparent at least, to him as a pole dancer's outfit, but he
dropped the notion. What would be the point? Mr Fernando and his friends would still
have his way with the little boy. On the flip side, if the boy mentioned to Mr Fernando

about Junior's caution, the caning would be too severe.


A night later, he heard the sobs from the younger boy's room.
When he was a bit older, Junior decided to flee. He didn't know where he'd go, what
he'd do, but once he had made up his mind, he resolutely planned. For weeks.
A few nights later, Junior heard footsteps as he lay awake in the stillness of the night;
Mr Fernando had come to pick up the new boy. Junior heard the soft protests, but Mr
Fernando, nevertheless, succeeded in taking the boy to the study for the waiting guests. A
few minutes later, Junior went to the study and bolted it from the outside. He rushed back
to his room to pick up the little bag he had already packed and tiptoed out of the
building. He turned back to look at the building, knowing he would return one day.
Surely.
When he had been pushed out of the Club at Cuffe Parade, he had been too young to
know the location. How would he ever find Margaret? He had no idea how or where to
begin the search. He had been a pawn for too long to do anything that wasn't instructed.
But he knew he'd learn and survive.
Escape was one thing, the fearful idea of surviving on his own, in Mumbai, was
another; food, shelter, clothing and the basic necessities required for subsistence were
hard to come by. How? Who would pay for them? It might have been morally and
physically degrading for him in the orphanage but there was always food on the table.
Moreover, the perpetual paranoia that someone was looking for him drove Junior crazy
(though no one cared; with millions living in care homes, who would bother coming
after a few getaways?) For the first three days, he endured on water from filthy
municipal taps.
Then he found a friend.
Raaj was an underclass criminal who belonged to one of the few underprivileged
thugs whose forefathers had escaped the mass execution of their tribe under the British
Raj. Or so he claimed: that he was born to be a criminal. A six-feet tall, burly guy of
twenty-one, his skin and hair exhibited the insanitary conditions he squatted in. He didnt
reside in an apartment or a house; it was a seven feet long cement pipe, nine feet in
diametre, left behind by one of the carefree builders on the outskirts of Dharavi; a few
thousands called such huge pipes their home, so did Raaj. Flanked against a wall on one
side, the pipe had a curtained entrance on the other the drape made by sewing
together a few disposed of jute bags. Raaj eked out a living by rag-picking and pickpocketing. With no regular income, he ate surplus food that had been discarded by
restaurants and scavenged tatters in rubbish piles that had been tossed out by their
previous owners.
You looking for food? is how the conversation had begun when Raaj observed
Junior going through the waste bins outside restaurants.
Yes. Your patch? Junior was petrified he had encroached on another reprobates
area.
No. Havent seen you before. Who are you?
Raaj, a runaway from his estranged family, understood what Junior had been through

after the latter confessed he had fled from an orphanage. Just why Raaj took on Junior as
an apprentice or a friend would forever remain a mystery, but he did it; out of pity, for
brotherhood, for humanity.
Life in the cement pipe wasnt luxurious; sadly, it wasnt as transitory as Junior had
anticipated. It lasted longer than he had imagined, but, at least, he had someone to share
the miserable life with. Raaj and he lived on rag-picking; ate and drank abstemiously,
and any extra money they earned with unscrupulous activities went towards watching
Bollywood flicks and an occasional feast in a cheap restaurant to eat food, which, for
once, wasnt leftovers.
Life in miserable, yet majestic Mumbai.
However, the quest to find Margaret and his roots never left Juniors brain. He could
never fathom why he needed to know, the need to go backand go back to what? He
tried to exorcise his past ghosts, but unfailingly strayed back into memories of his
mother. Her violation, each tear she had shed after losing some legal case, and, then, her
killing herself.
His mind had retained the scenes of his mothers last momentshe had seen her
dyinghe regretted there had been no goodbyes. Retribution had become his bedmate;
when he slept, when he couldnt sleep and lay sobbing softly so that it didnt wake up
Raaj or when he woke up. Time couldnt debilitate his resolve. If anything, the
passing time made his determination more sinister.
Junior kept his misery personal; he didnt share it with Raaj, at least for the first few
months.
It was the July of 2002. It had rained since the evening before, making it impossible
for the duo to venture outside for any food. If you lived life as pennilessly in Mumbai,
you instinctively knew you had to stock up for such days. The fish don't need swimming
lessons.
You ever had sex? Raaj asked as he nibbled on cold and soggy French fries they
had picked from trash outside a takeaway the day before.
Junior turned crimson. Sex was something one had to stomach to sustain; his mother
fucked for money, he had fucked to survive. The ugly visions flashed in front of his eyes:
of being in Vivianes room or Margarets room, watching them having sex or when Mr
Fernando and his friends sodomised him. Sex couldnt have been intended for pleasure.
In any case not his pleasure. Why was Raaj asking such questions? Had he come to
know about Juniors background?
What happened man, you didnt answer me, Raaj said, busy gobbling on whatever
was left. In fact, it would have been so much better if you were a girl. You know
whatyou are real chiknalook at you. He turned around to face the bare-chested
Junior sitting in his shorts. No hair, smooth white skin
Junior clenched his fists, he tried hard to keep his rage under control, but Raaj
noticed his friends growing distress. However, before he could utter the next word or
apologise, Junior burst out. The tears flowed; he had stifled his emotions for an
extremely long time, pushed them under, but they gave away. Raaj dropped his food and

rushed to console his friend.


What happened? I was only joking. Let me get you some water. He picked up a tin
can, stretched his hand outside the pipe to collect distilled water from the skies above
and brought it back to Junior. Sorry. I know you are unhappy, I sometimes wake up at
nights to find you sobbing, but I never asked. If you think I am a friend, tell me. Maybe I
can help.
Junior relented. Raaj had been his friend for quite some time now, given him shelter,
food and had never asked for anything in return. He gave an account, albeit
anachronistically, of the miserable life hed lived; the mind had lost all sense of
sequence, certain frames had gone missing on account of memory lapses or because of
the sameness of the preceding decade. How was one supposed to discern one squalid
night from another?
So youre looking for this foreign girl Margaret, who was a sex-worker in Mumbai
years ago?
Junior didnt say anything, just nodded. He appreciated Raajs good judgment of not
using the word whore. Whoreson, thats what they used to refer to him as. Even back
then, when he did not comprehend what it meant, it sounded like a profanity.
Well find her together. Dont worry. Raaj comforted his younger friend, taking him
into his arms.
How? Neither knew.
Have you ever had sex? Junior asked a bit later as they lay alongside each other
watching a steady stream of raindrops leaking into their dwelling through a small
aperture in the pipe.
Hahow? Raaj lit up a cigarette from his collection of half-smoked cigarettes he
had gathered throughout the previous day from various pavements.
What do you mean, how? Junior took the cigarette out of Raajs hand and inhaled,
deeply filling his lungs with smoke.
Boy, I live in a pipesorry, I share this pipe with another guy. He looked at Junior
and quickly took the fag back to catch the last drag of the stick. I survive by picking rags
and pockets. There isnt enough to feed my stomach, how do I feed any sexual itches?
You think some girl would fuck me for love?
Why does it have to be a girl? What? Raaj had a double take. I love you.
OhI love you too, but No. I love you.
Whoa
Junior had rolled on to his side looking fervently at Raaj. His hands moved to the
uncovered torso of the bigger man playing with the hair on the chest. Raaj closed his
eyes. The sensation was too much to bear. He felt Juniors hand move down to unbutton
his shorts, while Junior slipped out of his shorts too, and came on top of Raaj. He kissed
Raaj on the lips, and then slithered down to take his older friend in his mouth.
That night when Raaj entered Junior, it didnt hurt.
Theres a good reason why the lion bears the moniker of the king-of-the-jungle.
Irrespective of how old, indisposed or wounded it is, no other animal even conjures up

the illusion of hunting the big cat. Not one.


The wolves patiently wait till it dies.
Bir Desai had successfully disposed of any or all challengers who had ever
threatened his position. People died or simply vanished. He was in his seventies, an old
man now, weakened with age, and terminally ill. The end was nigh. His once
impregnable, vast empire of illegal activities firearms, alcohol, drugs, hired-killings
was disintegrating owing to him being out of action.
However vile, corrupt or precarious your business is you, nevertheless, wish for the
right heir to take the reins. Desais only son had beaten him in the ultimate race by
almost two decades. The whispers he had disregarded about the illegitimate grandson up
until now, had increasingly started to scream at him. A lot of water had flowed under the
rickety bridge: Bombay was Mumbai, Jay Desai was Junior, Pathak was dead, and the
Club at Cuffe Parade had closed.
Mumbai was a city of 18 million: how could one look for a lost child in this
madness, lost in this glut some twelve years ago? Nonetheless, if Bir Desai decided to
hunt for someone, he found him or her; it didn't matter if the prey had to be exhumed or
the earth needed excavating.
Raaj got arrested. He had snatched a ladys handbag outside a restaurant, but her man
caught Raaj. No amount of apologies or begging for mercy worked. The man called the
police.
Custody. Police beatings.
Petty-offence charge.
Three-month imprisonment.
Bail was set at ten thousand rupees, which was a fucking farce considering that the
boys didnt have money to feed themselves.
Dont worry about me. Ill be fine Junior. Do not stop looking for Margaret, Raaj
said when he came out of court after the conviction. Junior, holding back his tears,
nodded. He hadnt been away from Raaj for years now, but fortunately Raaj had taught
him how to survive. Three months would pass soon. And dont fall in love with anyone
else, Raaj whispered as he gave a seemingly friendly hug before the police constable
dragged him into the van.
Junior watched the van drive away through a waterfall of tears. He felt his pockets to
check if he had any cigarette stubs to smoke, but couldnt find any.
Cigarette? a hoarse voice, behind him, asked.
No thanks. Junior refused without turning around. He had no intentions of peddling
his ass for a cigarette.
Are you Mister Jay Desai?
Yes. Junior turned around. A well-dressed man in his mid-thirties smiled and
offered a cigarette. A full Benson & Hedges, not a half-smoked stick. His first instinct
was to bolt, there was every possibility that the orphanage authorities had caught up with
him, but he stood confidently. He was an adult now, he knew, and they couldnt take him
back to that despicable house. Who are you? he confidently asked.

Your humble servant, Mr Desai. The guy opened the cigarette packet and proffered
it to Junior. As Junior put the stick between his lips, the man held out a lighter.
Youre mistaking me for someone else, but thanks for the fag anyway. Junior turned
to leave. Agreed his official name was Jay Desai, but he wasnt wont to hearing Mister
Desaithere was undoubtedly some mistake somewhere.
Wait Mr Desai. The man put his hand on the boys shoulder to stop him. Weve
been looking for you for months now.
Wrong. You might be looking for Jay Desai, but that Jay Desai isnt me. He started
walking
No, Mr Desai, weve been looking for you, the man called out, following Junior
like a faithful dog.
How can you be so sure?
Because you are Madam Vivianes son, and you carry your fathers name: Jay
Desai.
Junior was merely a nickname your mother gave you; sadly it stuck.
What do you want? Junior halted abruptly. This man knew something. Your
grandfather would like to see you Mr Desai.
And who is my grandfather? Mr Bir Desai.
You mean the Bir Desai? Which misfortunate hadnt heard the name in Mumbai?
The man nodded. The car is waiting for you.
It was a Mercedes Benz S320. White. Privacy glass.
The rivals had infiltrated into Bir Desais gang, had bought one of his trusted
security guards. In the annals of treachery, an unfaithful guard working for an underworld
bigwig should go down as the worst criminal, but thats a story for another day. The
guard, obviously, got the kingpin. Bir Desai was shot dead as he came out of his
residence for an early morning walk, but it was two days too late.
Jay Desai Junior had already been crowned as the incoming messiah.
A pawn only has to cross five spaces to become the queen. It took Jay Desai five
years since he left the orphanage to become the king, the king of one of the most
feared underworld empires in Mumbai.
Your bail has been given.
Raaj couldnt believe it. Who in their right minds would bail him out? The only
person he loved was Junior, and to the best of his knowledge, Junior couldnt afford the
kind of cash the court had asked for. But, this wasnt the time to ask. He collected his
belongings and happily walked out.
The white Mercedes was parked right in front of the prison gate. Shining. Privacy
glass. Raaj looked at the car, but had no desire to confront or challenge the person who
had got him put of prison before the term. The uniformed chauffer stepped out to summon
him to the car.
Why? Raaj asked as he walked closer to the car. Mr Desai would like to see you.
And who the fuck is this Mr Desai?
The window in the rear cabin lowered for Raaj to see Junior, who sat dressed in an

expensive woollen steel-grey suit, quite a change from the torn shorts he wore at the
pipe they called home. Junior winked, and beckoned him into the car.
What the fuck?
Sit comfortably, my friend. Jay Desai uttered pressing the button to raise the glass
between them and the chauffeur. They kissed. Like lovers do. The tongues entwined like
two snakes fighting a wrestling match.
How did you ?'
Jay Desai gave a detailed account, in the privacy of the car, as the car drove them
into the meandering lanes of Byculla his inheritance, his empire.
This is not mine, this is yours, Junior said lighting up a fag and filling the glasses
with Chivas Regal when they got home. He threw the packet of B&H on the table for
Raaj.
What do you mean? I have a plan.
You found Margaret?
Yes and no. I didnt, but my grandfather did. Thats how he found me.
You met her?
Not yet. The first person Ive met since my grandfather died is you.
Whats the plan, then?
Junior explained he had decided to walk away from the crime hole, giving the reins
of his inheritance to Raaj. 'As I said, all this is yours because I dont belong here.. I want
to go away from all this, but I might need your help all along. Promise me youll never
compromise me, never let anyone know my origins.
Unconditional promise, my friend. I'd kill myself before I do anything that can harm
you. You sure you dont even want to tell me what is it thats driving you away from this
opulence?
The opulence, the way its gathered, itll always remind me of the past, which I
want to forget.
No worries, you dont have to tell me if you don't want to. Isnt that what friends are
supposed to do?
Youre right, Desai agreed.
You were my first love, remember? I know I turned gay under the circumstances,
why did you?
I cant even think of being with a woman. Lets not discuss this any further on that
please.
As you say. What do you want me to do?
You run this crime empire, which you always wanted to do. I go away, but if I need
anything, you shall give me without any questions...
Thats a promise.
They made love the last time.
Theres someone to see you madam.
Me? Margaret sounded perplexed. It had been quite a while since someone had
asked to see Margaret at Bhendi Bazaar. Who is it?

Mr Desai.
Who?
Its me Margaret. Jay had walked in behind the girl who had opened the door. Do I
know you?
Yes.
Margaret squinted her eyes. Something about Desai was familiar, but she couldnt
place her finger on anything. There was an air about the man that she wanted to
recognise, but it escaped her. The eyes were recognisable, but nothing else was. How
come you know me and I dont?
You do, you arent exercising you brain enough Margaret.
Who are you?
Jay Desai.
The name rang a thousand bells. She had definitely heard the name before, but it had
got buried under the dust she had accumulated in her mind for decades. It took her a little
longer than a minute to pull it out. Junior?
Yes.
Oh my Junior. Margaret got up and hugged him. How have you been?
Forget about me, how have you been? You wouldnt believe, but Ive thought about
you so many times. I had no idea where they put you up after you were gone from that
dump. She wiped the tears that had started to form. Memories of Juniors childhood, her
two deceased friends the deaths of whom she had incessantly held herself
responsible for zoomed inside her brain, in front of her eyesthe one ill-fated step;
an error she made in a hapless moment in time, and the price she had paid for almost a
quarter of a century.
Tell me everything Margaret, everything from the beginning.
Drink?
Sure.
Margaret called a girl and asked for whisky. Water or soda? She looked at Desai.
Nothing.
Get two glasses and the bottle of Scotch from my room please.'
From USSR a country that did not exist any longer to Mumbai, Margaret
apprised Jay Desai, giving all details she could pull out of memory. Two hours and five
drinks later, the story stalled. Here we are. I will never forgive myself.
Dont be too harsh on yourself Margaret, you did, whatever it was, in good faith.
I am so happy to see you Junior.
I can get you out of this wretched place.
Where will I go now?
I hear you. But I need your help.
My help? Margaret looked flabbergasted. What could a whore who was well past
her expiry date do to help the prince of the underworld?
Yes.
Id do anything for you, anything you ask for.

Good.
Desai spoke for about a quarter of an hour, with Margaret nodding and pouring
drinks. I am in. Ill do as you want, but I am sure you appreciate the risk.
I can arrange a passport for any country you want, you might need it in case you feel
the heat around the corner
Really?
Which one do you want?
One Russian and one Irish. The dream might have been buried, but it wasnt dead.
It will be done Margaret. Ill make sure they are delivered to you in the next few weeks.
Well talk but Im not sure if well ever meet again. One last question...do you know
where my mother's grave is?'
'Yes.'
The two exchanged numbers, hugs and parted. It was bucketing down when the car
picked up Jay Desai from Bhendi Bazaar.
Home? asked the driver.
Not yet. Desai looked at his watch. 6 p.m. Take me to Takshila Apartments in
Andheri East, I have to square up an old debt.
The car drove into the housing complex Takshila Apartments a little after
eight. Mr Fernando died of a skull fracture at 8:20 p.m.
Jay Desais visits to Raaj decreased with time. Raaj was glad that his friend who
had given him everything was finally happy. No request, however atrocious guns,
alcohol, whatever was ever to be declined was what he had instructed everyone who
worked for him.
Then, one day in July of 2006, Desai dropped the bomb. He told Raaj he was
leaving.
Forever. And Raaj knew it was pointless to even ask.
Just one thing Raaj, I am leaving a friend in the city. If she ever needs anything,
shell call you and give you the reference of this conversation. Give her anything she
ever wants, would you?'
I promise. And if you ever come back, be in touch. Jay nodded.
Youve done so much for me Jaymy Juniorplease be safe. Raajs eyes were
wet. Dont worry about me.
The same afternoon, Jay Desai visited Vivianes grave at Sewri Cemetery. Viviane was
befittingly buried in the cemetery that had originally been set up for European burials in
1865. Located in Parel, it was now the biggest Christian burial ground in Mumbai.
Amongst some of the older and more intricate European gravestones Viviane lay under
an asphalted grave soiled with time, monsoon and bird droppings that hadnt been
tended to since she had been buried under the cover of the night. The gravestone named
her as Viviane Casey; no dates for birth or death were mentioned, which was obvious. If
Pathak had declared such a young death, someone might have asked for an autopsy.
Tears flooded Desais eyes without a warning. Seeing his mothers grave was
pleasantly stirring and disturbing at the same time. Old wounds resurfaced. He sat down

on a dwarf wall between the graves. The rain, long over, had left the cement wall damp,
which seeped into his body through his bottom that sat on it. The sun shone through the
partial clouds, humidity was high and rain wasnt forecast for the coming evening. But
how long could he stay there? He could taste his misery: the bitter tang of his mothers
defeat.
Some wounds stay green. Each scar hurt, every memory pained, seconds moved like
a lazy turtle. He knew he had to leave. He had to be strong. Vivianes obituary might
have been written more than fifteen years ago, but she still lived in Jay Desais heart and
mind. To him, she was a wandering soul, drifting, seeking him, and watching him, eyes
beseeching him to set her soul free.
Jay Desai left Mumbai the same evening. He had decided never to return, and he kept
his promise: Jay Desai never returned to Mumbai.

TWENTY-FIVE
2007
It was incredibly embarrassing for Rita Ferreira, the Crime Branch and entire
Mumbai Police that more than three months into the investigation even the gender
of the perp couldn't be ascertained. Recanting on the hypothesis regarding the gender for
the second time would indeed be disastrous for the department's standing; they weren't
speculating on Angelina Jolie's next adoption: would it be a boy or a girl? They were
trying to apprehend a killer who had brought Mumbai on the brink of panic.
The media had run out of all positivity, and justifiably so. "This case would never be
solved," most had prophesied. Mumbai Police, to their knowledge, had picked up no
clues till now, hence if the killer didn't dispatch any more whoremongers, how would the
police ever get to him? "Wasn't that why Jack the Ripper was never captured: because
one day he just discontinued the killing?" they instanced.
Only, the media weren't intimated about the newest discovery: Margaret Flynn, and
what had been unearthed post that breakthrough. The fourth estate had been served with
mere scraps to keep the killer satiated should he be interested in news still that the
police had no scent yet.
Decoys had been planted around Bhendi Bazaar to keep an eye on Margaret's
bordello.
All telephone lines had been bugged.
The fact that both Vivianes son and the guy who fathered him were missing from
every national database searched was too unconvincing to be coincidental. Even if it
was just coincidence, it was too overwhelming to be overlooked. They had to find these
missing links.
'Every single girl's alibi has been verified by their clients, including those men who
aren't residents of Mumbai,' Vikram updated Rita. 'Makes me wonder if Margaret herself
'
'If Margaret were to go on a killing spree, why wouldn't she have started a decade
earlier? Why would she go into hibernation for so long only to come out of it to kill?
Doesn't make sense.'
'Maybe because she has more opportunity now than she had before...?'
'You may have a point there, but I'd wager on the son. Let's find him.'
One of Senior Inspector Nenes snitches loosened some nuts and bolts of an old
infamous massage parlour at Cuffe Parade. The informant was uncertain about Viviane
or her son, but was confident that the owner Pathak had sent a young boy to some
Catholic children's home in Bandra, in early 1991.

Locating the orphanage at Mount Mary Steps was effortless for the police. The
records indicated that Pathak had given a boy named Jay Desai into the custody of the
orphanage, but the boy had fled sometime in late 2000 the records weren't
meticulously maintained.
Seven years previously, Rita calculated. 'Why wasn't it reported to the police if a
juvenile had run away?' she asked.
The caretaker, now, was an old man, Peter Coelho, in his late fifties. He had no
answer to Rita's question. He shrugged his shoulders.
'Who was the caretaker of this institution in 2000?'
'Mr Fernando. He was the caretaker from 1989 till 2003 when he was...' Coelho
stopped in mid-sentence.
Rita caught the strain. Coelho had braked hard to stop himself from saying something
derogatory; his countenance, nonetheless, had let him down. 'He was fired,' she baited.
'How do you know?'
'I guessed it 'cause you didn't complete the sentence.'
'Oh.' Coelho looked relieved; he didn't wish to be known as a turncoat against the
sacred institution.
'Care to tell us?'
'Why are you looking for Jay Desai after so many years?'
'As I told you on the phone, this is in connection with another investigation, which
we cannot reveal at the moment. Why did Mr Fernando leave?'
'He was accused of paedophilia. Some boys in the orphanage reported it to the
authorities. He was asked to leave before someone brought up a case against him.'
'No one bothered to report that to the police either,' Rita stated in a prosaic tone.
The shake of the head insinuated no. 'It was up to the victims if they wanted to report.
Most didnt want publicity, so ' Where is he now?'
'He lives in...' Coelho cringed his eyebrows to think for a moment. 'I think I have his
address on file. He sifted through a few files in the shelf behind his desk. 'Here it
is...Andheri East.'
He wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it over to Vikram, as though his
celibacy would be invaded if his hand had come in contact with a woman. Or maybe his
antediluvian monastery still believed that a woman officer had to be lower-ranked than
the male?
'Any photograph of Jay Desai on file?'
Coelho nodded, got up and left the room. He returned with a single postcard size
picture of a bony boy who appeared frazzled, perhaps because of years of living as an
orphan.
'We'll take this.' Rita didn't ask. She took the photograph from Coelho and gave it to
Vikram. 'If you find any more photographs or come across any other information that
might help us locate him, please give me a call.' She pulled out her card and waited till
he reluctantly stretched his hand to take it.
The last photograph of Jay Desai when, according to the records, he must have been

fourteen had been taken in September of 2000. It was hardly challenging for the police
artist to generate a computer-aided e-fit of what he might presently look like.
'If Jay Desai left the orphanage at fourteen, he should have been according to this
picture five feet one, so he shouldn't be any taller than five feet three inches,
maximum five-four,' Rustom, the young expert constructing the e-fit at the lab, told Rita
and Vikram confidently. 'The picture you gave me tells us that the boy was slightly built,
skinny for his age if you ask me, but we can never predict his present frame with more
than eighty per cent confidence level, which is unusable. There are too many unknowns
he could have taken steroids, built up muscles through exercise or maybe reduced to a
skeleton by substance abuse, whatever
'Let's go and see Mr Fernando. Maybe we get to know something more about Jay
Desai, more than just a picture and a few photofits.' Rita got up. 'Come Vikram.'
'Do we need a back-up ma'am?'
'What for?' As a reflex, Rita's right hand went under her jacket to check for her
service revolver.
The lock at Mr Fernando's door in Takshila Apartments at Andheri East was rusty,
like it hadn't been opened for quite a while. No recent activity showed. Mr Fernando
could have been travelling; there might be no one to look after the place in his absence.
Rita rang the bell. Nothing.
She rang the bell again and put her ear to the dusty door. There wasn't any sound of
the bell either. Fernando might have been out long enough for the electric connection to
be disconnected.
Maybe.
Rita knocked hard. Then Vikram stepped forward to give it a man's knock. Nothing.
'Stay here Vikram.' Rita looked at the damp asphalt there had been sporadic
showers the night before around the ground floor apartment. 'I'll go round to check if
some window is open.'
'OK ma'am.'
She was back before the minute lapsed. 'Call for a back-up and break the lock
Vikram...I think there is someone lying on the floor, motionless.'
Vikram pulled out the handcuffs from the back pocket and gave the lock a thunderous
strike with the metal. The lock didn't resist.
If there was one thing that was more nauseating than the stench of death, it was the
fetid scent of an old death. Rankness of decomposed human remains could make the
toughest guys retch, but Rita and Vikram stayed composed. Putrid stench increasingly
filled the nostrils as they walked deeper into the apartment. A million maggots that had
partied on the corpse had died too after bingeing; that or they died of starvation after
nothing was left in the body to suck at. Scuffed enamel of the bones beamed when
Vikram switched on the torch; almost skeleton, there was barely any skin left. The
skeleton, in places, was attached together by leather, which was once ligament, skin or
muscle. The little mummified ribbons left were so abraded it was hard to tell the sex of
the corpse.

The body had certainly been exposed to a couple of monsoons and as such, there
wasnt much physical structure left for necropsy. The stiff would require a forensic
pathologist to formally identify who it was once-upon-a-time, how she or he died and
when? Unlike a morbid pathologist, the identification of body, the cause and time of
death in such a case would typically need an autopsy that took longer than usual.
'Dead for more than a year, I think,' Vikram murmured.
'Easily a couple, maybe more.'
They found a broken wristwatch with the time 08:17. No a.m. or p.m., no month, no
year. That was hardly any information to work with. Besides, there was no way to
establish the watch had stopped at the time of this person's death.
The crime scene investigation army arrived within half an hour. They scoured and
dusted latents off everything possible: tiles, doorframe, pipes, and collected fragments in
bottles.
A fresh flush of adrenaline rushed through Rita's veins. Who was it? A lot would fall
into place if, and when, they could determine who he was before he became this
wretched paste: Mr Fernando or Jay Desai? Trying as hard as she could, she couldnt
come up with any other names to associate with this corpse.
With the body so pulverised, it was impossible for forensic expert to ascertain the
real cause of the death on the spot, except for a cracked skull. However, he was certain
it was a male corpse, and it was surely murder; he had been hit on the head.
Everything was neatly indexed, packed and transported to the mortuary.
The teeth and lack of some of them gave the age of the man as early Sixties. The
X-ray of skull plates showed a clear fusion between brow and top plates, which also
established the age of the person: above sixty for sure. The age tallied with Fernando's.
Height: five-ten, which was another indication that it could be Fernando, and not Jay
Desai. Must have been well built in his youth and middle age about ninety kilos.
Bludgeoned on the head with something like a cricket bat. Death might have been instant
after the fracture of the skull, but there were several other broken bones a few ribs,
the left wrist, which might or might not have been post-mortem; it was too late after the
decay to ascertain. There wasn't much else the experts could tell.
A tired clich but there was, really, no free lunch. You savoured a chocolate, you
paid for it. Karma has a just way of getting back at you. The heinous old custodian of the
orphanage was known for malpractice an unconscionable, barbarous, paedophile that
he had been. He seemed to have had a sub-rosa group that revelled in vile activities;
fellow degenerates in hallowed clothing. They sodomised helpless kids, and someone
came back to fuck Fernando. It was Karma. It was fair. Pity it wasn't legal and a
policewoman was not to question why. Rita couldn't commiserate as a police officer
the law neither paid nor was permitted to sympathise with suspects but as a woman,
as a human being, she did condole this particular murder. She was grateful she wasn't the
judge.
How could anyone convict Fernando's killer and sleep at night?
However, if Fernando had abused a lot of children, any one could have turned

around and exterminated the bastard. Fernando's murder could be a totally different case.
Fernando had been coshed on the head that had resulted in his death. The five
murders suggested a pattern. Al Khan's murder, Rita was aware, had been different; it
had been in a hurry, to protect the murderer's identity. This sixth and the oldest one at
that deviated from the pattern. No stabbing, no drugging, no bullet. Perhaps another
unplanned murder the killer committed or did he kill Fernando before he became a serial
killer?
"And because you havent yet discovered any of his past crimes does not indicate
hes never killed before. Recidivism is extremely common amongst such people."
Hadn't Ash warned?
Then again, the blow to the head, possibly, wasn't intended to kill; murder might not
have been the objective, but it happened nevertheless. The other murders were
committed with precision. Could this be a different killer or was it too much of a
coincidence? Or was this where it all began, and then stopped only to recur with an
utterly antithetic Modus Operandi? Rita's mind was relentlessly trying to work out the
puzzle. She couldn't afford to make mistakes on a case she had been working on for three
months now. Bungled detective work, everyone in police circles knew, was known to be
like death by poison; the corpse of the case could be easily exhumed to prove the
blunder.
'For someone to attack a man of ninety kilos, that someone would have to be far
bigger,' Vikram uttered.
'Or smarter.' Rita looked at him. 'The attacker was shorter for sure. The cricket bat
hit on the lower back on the head, not on the crown.'
'Could he have fallen on something sharp, like a pipe or stairs...?'
'And then disposed of the bat or whatever the hard plank was?'
'We've seen Jay Desai's e-fit. How can a man his size kill Fernando?' The
bewilderment showed on Vikram's face.
'Exactly like a comparatively tiny lion can attack an elephant...the world, in some
way or the other, teaches everyone that everything is possible, should there be enough
desire or hunger.' Rita's mind drifted away yet again. It was a visceral thought, a mere
intuition as of now, but if it was Jay Desai a man with a deep-rooted contempt for
men he must have lived with the hatred for years. Hate, like love, was a passionate
feeling, but unlike love, hate didn't have vivid colours; it was monochrome and for
someone to live with a hatred of that magnitude for so long, it must have been extremely
taxing for the brain. Hatred, surely, couldnt remain passive for long; it was now
impelling him to kill the object of his hatred.
If Jay Desai ran off from the orphanage in 2000 and Fernando was killed in 2005,
where had Jay Desai been for five years? "Quinquennium," Sexy would have surely
referred to the period of five years with a fancy word, Rita smiled; she was putting into
practice the age-old maxim to trick her brain: humour yourself to keep your sanity in
such times.
The day was practically over. Rita, still preoccupied with the case, poured Jim into a

glass and looked down from the window. The nondescript car, provided to her for
security on insistence of Sexy, was parked on the opposite side of the street, and a
plainclothesman sat seemingly uninterested in what happened around him. His
binoculars resting on the car's dashboard, however, blatantly betrayed his discreetness
should even some one-eyed half-wit apply his brain, not to mention the above average
IQ killer they were dealing with. She put on music, which soothed her and made her
unwind. She scrambled a couple of eggs and devoured them with buttered toast. The
recondite case had dragged on and the very thought of it depressed her. "My rainbow is
overdue..." sang Bad Company, aptly, in the background.
She closed her eyes to ponder and Ash Mattel whirled into her thoughts. Good idea,
she thought. Knowing that her phone was no longer bugged, she called him.
'Hi.' Ash sounded cheerful, as always.
'What do you eat?' Rita blurted before the pleasantries; she hadn't intended to, but
Ash's exuberance prompted it.
'You called me to ask that honey?'
'Nahjust wanted to know how do you keep yourself so jovial at all times?'
'Who said I am jovial at all times? I get excited whenever I hear your voice. You're
the reason.'
'And how many girls have you used that line on?'
'On no one else in the last few months...'
At least he was honest. 'I am honoured.'
'You're too self-deprecating sweetie, you deserve better than me.'
'Thanks. Want me to take off my clothes now?' she bantered.
'Well, if we could have a video call, why not? What are you wearing honey?' Ash
began in a hoarse voice to sound sexy; to sound lecherous, strictly speaking.
'OK, could we get a bit serious now?'
'Moving to London then? Let's have a few kids...'
'Have you lost your mind?'
'Long time back. What is it you're after?'
'Ash.' Rita's tone elucidated she wasn't talking about the seriousness of their
relationship.
'All ears honey, all ears. How's the case going?'
'It's a he.'
'Who's he?'
'The killer, who else?'
'I told you so.'
'But you agreed it was a female...'
'I conceded to your surmise dear girl, it wasn't my hypothesis. I have always
maintained the killings had male stamped all over them, remember?'
So he had conveniently chosen to ignore his last deduction. Rita saw no point in
cantankerously arguing over some past miscommunication. Ash was only trying to help.
'Yes,' she agreed.

'So what made you reverse your decision from a 'female' to 'male' killer now? What
about the perfume, the lipstick, the bra?'
'Only an amateur would believe in such conspicuous blinds, my surmise was based
on other findings, but never mind.' Rita detailed her encounter with Margaret, the digging
up of Jay Desai and the discovery of Fernando's corpse. 'What I cannot understand is
why this guy disappeared, first, for five years since his escape from the orphanage and,
then, for another two after killing Fernando.
'You will find out, I am certain. What you've just told me fits the profile of a serial
killer the background, the traumatic life history. You know, and I'm not saying this to
frighten you, there's one thing even more addictive, more animalistic than sex. Power.
Killing someone is power, its a terminal addiction. He is, what we psychiatrists would
call, an inveterate killer: a habitual killer who consequently becomes a serial killer
because he just cannot stop himself. There is some pleasure in insanity, which normals
like you and I cannot fathom. Of course there are, like always, other more fitting
possibilities, but you must find him to eliminate him from the enquiry.'
'He is who the entire department is looking for.'
'And if you have eliminated his information sources, he should get in touch with you
soon.'
'How soon?'
'We don't know his reasoning, his purpose, his motivation, anything. And with that
many unknowns, it's impossible to predict. The only thing I can say is that he should be
contacting you or the media fairly soon. Before he kills again, for sure.'
'How soon?' Rita repeated.
'If he has any inkling that your enquiry is on a trail that could lead to him, I'd say the
clock's ticking.' There wasn't any humour in Ashs intonation. It was a fact, stated matterof- factly. works.'
'Thanks for the insight, I really mean it Ash. It's great to know how a criminal mind
'You're welcome, and you know that. OK, let me try again, what are you wearing?'
'Nothing.'
Maybe, if Ash had proposed to her in college? She wasn't interested in a career, let
alone a police career then. Maybe she would have joined him at London or wherever he
went, got married, had a couple of kids...ah, the joys of time travelling, Rita smiled and
switched off the lights.
The phone rang, like someone had waited for her to kill the lights in her bedroom.
Someone actually had.
'About to go to sleep DCP?' It was the female voice.
'Waiting for your call actually,' Rita retorted. How accurate could a criminal profiler
be? Ash had warned about this like...three minutes ago? She immediately texted Vikram
"Trace the call".
'Oh really? Is that why you have a welcome party waiting for me under your
apartment?'
'I am not sure I understand what you mean by that.'

'You don't want me to believe something you don't, do you? There is a nutter sitting
in the white car across the street from your apartment who cannot seem to keep his eyes
off your window. Another lover perhaps?'
'No. I don't know who you're talking about?'
'OK, give me a minute, let me put a bullet in his head and then chat with you.'
'Aye...hold on,' Rita screamed into the mouthpiece. Where are you?'
'Ha ha...DCP, I feel very humiliated that you still think I am an ass. Did you really
think I would not spot a policeman when I see one?'
'OK, he's a police guy.'
'That's like a nice girl. I hope you have asked one of your sidekicks to trace this call
because I am not finished with this call yet, so if you want I can hold on till you place a
trace- call order.' The voice chuckled.
The killer knew he was playing with fire, and getting away with it. His confidence
was alarming. Rita wasn't disgusted; she took it in her stride. The initial fear of the call
the killer knowing about the plainclothesman had waned. Rita's rational mind
whispered that the killer wasn't still around the corner, he must have checked the
position of the security car earlier, possibly even another day, and was confidently
mentioning it like he could see it now. But it was good to see such
brashness...overconfidence sired recklessness, and recklessness caused errors.
'Feeling very confident?'
'Confidence builds up when you know the people you're dealing with cannot ever
catch you, doesn't it?'
'So why disguise your voice then?' Rita craved to call him Jay Desai to feel the
reaction, but decided not to. Calling him Jay Desai might warn the killer how far the
police investigation had reached. Moreover, Jay Desai, so far, could only be indicted on
circumstantial evidence, which given the fractures they had in the theory so far any
good defence lawyer would put the entire case in a shredder. meet.'
'I disguise my voice so you don't recognise me when you meet me. It's only fair.'
'And when shall we meet?'
'That's up to you DCP. I call you whenever I like. It's you who's not doing enough to
Rita's brain was in top gear now. She wanted, somehow, for the caller to acknowledge
how much he was acquainted with what Rita knew. 'I know you are a man, why this
farce?'
'Is that what they told you in Bhendi Bazaar?'
'How do you know I went to Bhendi Bazaar?'
'Touch DCP...come on, you're demeaning my intelligence again. Youre hacking
calls, but dont forget who you learnt that trick from. I wired your apartment and, not to
forget, your highly secured Ops Room without any of you knowing about it.'
'So you know that I know...'
'Nice try. You want me to take your bait and complete your sentence? You think you
can hack Bhendi Bazaar telephones and I wouldn't know? I am disappointed in you DCP,
you're only following in my footsteps...I gave you so many clues, but you still looking in

the wrong direction, seeking poor hookers who earn petty living by honestly fucking the
rich bastards...'
'So you know Margaret?'
'Sorry DCP, it's been two minutes, fifty seconds. I gotta goI am not worried if your
guys trace this call, I am concerned that in case they turn up here I'll have to kill them,
though given the efficiency of your department it's highly unlikely. But why take the risk?
Good night.'
'The call was from Santa Cruz Airport,' Vikram called to say the trace had worked.
'Very smart...in case we had traced the call in time and tried to track the person, it
would be impossible to find the person or the car in the crowd.' Rita narrated the brief
conversation to Vikram. Everyone would listen to the recording later in the morning to
glean whatever he or she could from voice, accent, speech, background noises or any
other clue.
Every time Rita asked the trace to be put up, it was procedural to record the call too.
'I think we have enough evidence to call in Margaret for questioning.'
'When?'
'ASAP. Call up Jatin, ask him to wake up some sessions court judge at seven
tomorrow morning and get an arrest warrant for Margaret Flynn. I shall speak to ACP
Joshi before that. But, we need to visit Margaret's place before the residents wake up, so
before the first light. Gather troops at Crawford Market by four. We should be out of her
place by five- thirty latest. It's a visit, not to raid to request Margaret to come with us.
The troops would be a mere precaution, in case there is trouble. We'll use the arrest
warrant only if required, in case Margaret gets any ideas. Any questions?'
'No, ma'am.' Vikram looked at the time. 00:15
'See you at four then. Have a good sleep. Rita looked at the heeltap. Perhaps it was
time to stop. She had had two drinks. Another drink wouldn't be the end of her problem;
it might just be a start of another one.
A few hours of sleep were now as essential as breathing.

TWENTY-SIX
2007
03:35 a.m.: Mumbai was in dreamless slumber when Rita came down to the car park
on the ground floor. As she walked towards her Gypsy in the weak florescent tubelight
there was only one to light the whole car park she stopped just short of her
vehicle; something was amiss. Had her driver overlooked rolling up the windows? It
had never happened before.
There was a slight blip on the mental radar. Cautious as she needed to be, she
pirouetted to absorb the surroundings and acclimatise her eyes to the weak light. No one.
The old watchman slept, sitting on his usual white plastic chair at the gate, his arms
resting on an oversized stick, which could only scare the street dogs or stray urchins that
tried to enter the building. In fairness, the watchman's duty in Mumbai was to open and
close the gate of the building as the cars passed by, wash the cars at an extra cost, of
course and collect post on behalf of residents. The old man wasn't apparently a
security guard.
Rita pulled out her gun and holding it firmly she moved back stealthily, taking shelter
behind other cars as a precaution. Her eyes couldn't afford to lose the alert; she waited
till she could focus better in the faint light. Bending her knees, she crouched and
carefully circumvented a few cars to have a clear view inside her jeep. There was no
movement, no activity. Nevertheless, she softy approached the jeep, wary to spring into
action if required.
She circled around her vehicle once, inspected the tyres. Inflated. Everything seemed
okay up until she opened the driver's door and the cabin light came on. There was a
small box, the size of a supermarket soap bar, gift-wrapped. A small white paper was
stapled on the box, printed with: "To DCP Ferreira". Fighting the momentary urge to
open the gift, Rita cottoned on to whom it could be from. A thud of dread thumped into
her head. She had never experienced frostbite, but she could feel the so often
described sensation up her spine. The killer had been into her apartment block again.
There was no way the killer could have known what time Rita would leave her
apartment block this morning, so it could not be a bomb on timer, she convinced herself.
She opened the glove compartment, pulled out the latex gloves and lifted the box. It
wasn't connected to the car's ignition or battery. Besides, the box was too light to carry
enough explosives to cause fatality.
Tick-tock. Rita controlled her panic well; it took her less than a minute to decide
whether she should take the risk of driving with the gift or call Emergency. She started
the car and put it into gear. The watchman woke up the minute the headlights beamed at

the gate.
'Did someone come into the building late last night?' Rita asked, knowing well the
response would be a shrug.
Shrug. 'No madam.' He raised his right hand to his temples to salute.
Rita drove out of Sheesh Mahal. She glanced in the rear-view mirror. The
theoretically nondescript car was still noticeably parked, like some ugly landmark on
the road. It was high time she got the security guy removed. In any case, what good was
he parked there when the killer, despite being aware about his presence, could so freely
come into her apartment block, open the police vehicle without setting off the alarms and
leave a gift. That is to say if, at all, the gift was from the killer. Wasn't she overreacting?
Whatever...she had decided to personally request Sexy to rescind the disconcerting
security with immediate effect.
The gift was handed over to Chota Mathur to be rushed out to experts without delay. It
was fanciful to imagine the gift was a bomb, Rita had no misgivings about that, but it had
to be done to follow procedures, to keep the bureaucracy happy. The gift box was, first,
sent to the bomb disposal squad for clearance.
Takla Mathur was responsible for the police van carrying a dozen police bodies to
Bhendi Bazaar. Vikram drove Rita, leading the blue Mumbai Police van, into the vacant
streets. It was 4:38 in the morning and all businesses, including the all-pervasive
soliciting on the streets, were closed at this hour.
The killer who had called Rita the night before manifestly knew about her prior visit
to Margaret. Even if it wasn't Jay Desai, there had to be a connection. They were
tightening the noose; it was only a matter of time. They were almost there Rita
contemplated knowing that almost was a dubious word. Perhaps, since it couldnt be
quantified. Almost there wasn't there; even worse, it didnt enlighten how much further
one had to go to get there. And her apprehension wasnt unfounded.
Magdalena alias Margaret alias Malti no longer resided at the place where Rita had
met her two days earlier.
Margaret Flynn had left Mumbai, and maybe India, for good. She had left the
bordello two hours after seeing off Rita, and an hour before the area was put under
surveillance and all phones were wired.
Another suspect or witness excised from the register, another lead had gone cold.
Wrung dry of ideas, Rita and the flotilla returned to Crawford Market. Of course they
had a lead: Jay Desai, but there was little point in a lead that couldn't be followed up.
Fortunately, the bomb squad cleared the gift box; there were no explosives in the
little packet. Not so fortunately though, the Forensics couldnt pluck any fibres, prints or
anything whatsoever from the little gift.
Anita Raizada arrived late at work. There was a message from Narang to see him
pronto. Urgent. Nothing negative about the word itself, but, somehow, urgent didn't give
her any positive connotation. Not in the least if it was from a boss like Narang. Keeping
her bag at her desk, she switched on the computer and walked into Narangs office.
Good morning Amit.

Narang gestured her to come in and sit, while he pretended he was busy reading
something important on his computer screen. He winked at her as she sat down, clacked
a few more keys and turned to face her.
You called for me?
Oh yesI wanted to remind you of your deferred promise. The wicked, lecherous
grin returned to his ugly face.
OhIve been really busy.
I can appreciate the workload, but with the serial killer holed up somewhere, there
shouldnt be much on that front. Right?
No Amit, we are still providing fodder to appease him. In the absence of any news,
he might think were ignoring him and
Friday, Narang interjected.
W-w-whats happening on Friday?
I want you in my office this Friday evening, thats day after tomorrow. And,
remember to bring no friends or make no excuses this time. I have the date of your last
periods, so it would be better if you do not make any excuses. Friday, at eight-thirty, this
place should be empty. In any event, no one should bother what happens in my office,
unless you want to go elsewhere.
Anita shook her head.
You want it here? So be it. Ill see you on Friday.
Anita lost all concentration for the rest of the day. People in office moved around
her, the phone at her desk rang and went into voicemail, but nothing took her mind away
from Friday; Friday was imminent. She had avoided Narangs hideous demand for
longer than she thought she could, but she couldnt defer it indefinitely. Was her job so
important to her? She thought of calling Jatin, but halted.
Complication.
Make a formal police complaint? Even bigger complications.
Short of breaking down into tears, she took the afternoon off work and left for home.
If she only had a little more than forty-eight hours, she could think, could plan.
Sexy yes, the Commissioner of Mumbai Police, Sanjay Saxena walked down a
floor from the ivory tower and walked into the Operations Room. Everyone in Indian
bureaucracy, as part of his or her induction, was provided with a spring in the rear for
such occasions. Rita, Nene, Vikram, Jatin, Chota and Takla Mathurs, DSouza and
Anand sprang to their toes as the Commissioner walked in.
Good morning and apologies, I know it isnt a decorous approach to drop by
without some kind of formal notification. Everyone looked at him wide-eyed some in
awe, some out of fear, the rest still struggling to figure out what decorous meant and how
many more times their lexicon would be challenged in the next five minutes. I am au
courant with the fresh developments, particularly the gift box that had been so
meticulously put below DCP Ferreiras apartment, in her vehicle to be precise. It is an
ignominy for the entire Mumbai police force to let one killer throw down the gauntlet at
all of us with such hauteur. Wasnt there supposed to be a police guard outside DCP

Ferreiras residence?
All eight heads nodded. What was he doing?
Sir Rita attempted to intervene.
The news of Sexy walking to the Ops Room must have spread like an inferno within
the building for ACP Joshi emerged in the room within minutes of his superiors arrival.
Whos the senior-most of you all?
The seven dwarfs looked at Snow White; for all Inspectors present in the room, Rita
was the highest-ranked. Snow White looked at Prince Charming; for Rita when ACP
Joshi was present he obviously carried that mantle. The Commissioner, ignorant of
Joshis presence, followed Ritas eyes and turned around to acknowledge the ACP.
I implied which one of you in DCP Ferreiras team has the most experience with the
Force?
Senior Inspector Nene raised his hand. Despite Vikram being the same rank, Nene
unquestionably had more experience.
Sexy, an epitome of political correctness, looked at Nenes badge; he didnt want to
concede that he didnt know the names. Inspector Nene, I give you the power to be the
custodian for all officers who have been involved in this protracted investigation. Today,
this might have been an incident in DCPs parked car, but it could also transpire
elsewhere. Sexy stopped to look if anyone dared to challenge. Nada. He spoke to all:
Inspector Nene shall devise an infallible security plan by dint of uniform police, and on
that front, irrespective of your rank, you have to abide by whatever Inspector Nene
contrives. Is that understood?
Heads nodded in acquiescence. Authority melted ice; instructions flowed down
uninterrupted, uncontested. Besides a few words that challenged the vocabulary,
everything was unambiguous.
The Commissioner parted as abruptly as he had appeared, leaving Nene with a
fevered expression of a boy who had just been appointed the class monitor. Walking
behind Sexy, Joshi beckoned Rita to see him in his office in ten minutes.
Rita was back in her office after a brief meeting with Joshi. With the killer laying
dormant for some time now, and the Chief Minister having lost interest in Suri's murder,
Sexy had backed off from the case, but that wasn't to be taken as if he wasn't looking for
a swift closure or that Rita and the team could pop champagne, pack up a picnic hamper
or leave for vacation to Goa. Sexy had obviously mentioned something about bringing in
the Central Bureau of Investigation, but both Joshi and Rita knew that was an empty
threat. Calling for CBI meant accepting defeat, which the Commissioner would never
accept.
'We've received more information regarding Fernando,' Vikram announced when he
came into Ritas office at noon.
Anything we should know?
Nothing major. The only new news is that Mr Fernando owned a car that the local
police cannot find. Registration number MH02
A red Maruti 800 by any chance? How do you know that?

Jesus Christ. Really? I was only hazarding a guess. Remember the car that was
spotted by witnesses on the night I got the call from this killer for the first time? A red
Maruti.
Ritas words sank in. Sometimes one doesn't seek something, but when one finds it, it
makes one think. Vikram thought for a minute to ingest the implication. You mean
I took a guess, seems it was the same car, which confirms that whoever killed
Fernando took the car. Maybe then, maybe laterso if we ever traced the car down, it
would be tracked back to a dead man, not the killer. Very shrewd bastard.
What do we do now?
This car is surely in the killers possession, he might not use it on a daily basis, but
my guess is he uses it to travel when he kills. Put out a notification to all Mumbai police
stations to be on the alert and report immediately if they spot this car.
Yes, maam. Vikram pulled out his notebook to jot down the instructions.
Also, there should be cameras in ITC Grand Maratha check if this car was ever
on camera in their car park, you know the dates to focus on. And, if this car was spotted
at the domestic airport last night. Vikram kept nodding, scribbling. And if it has been
picked up by any police cameras all over the cityif this car is still in the possession of
our suspect, it should make our search easier.
Inspector Jatin Singh called to update Rita on Anita Raizadas ongoing squalid saga. He
had called Anitas office, and then her mobile for a date to update her of the current
investigation as agreed but she refused to see him on Friday or before that, due to
Narangs filthy demand.
Jatin, we cannot do anything till she files a complaint, an FIR. She has to help
herself if she needs us to intervene. that.
I know that maam, but she refuses to. Ill try when I see her next, but But?
Narang will have his way with her on Friday and shes refused to see me before
Wasnt life complicated enough that Rita, now, had to look after a besotted
inspector? Keep trying, its only Wednesday. I am sure she will agree to see you. Lets
talk Friday morning if nothing else works out by then.
Thanks maam.
People whove lived through them, best tell old tales. As time passes and stories are
narrated. They spread. Someone whispers. Someone hears incorrectly or passes it
incorrectly.
Sometimes, a good soul changes it deliberately to make it more believable. But it
was all there the legend and legacy of Bir Desai was too big to stay concealed. Who
else but Nene whod been in Mumbai Police for decades could know where the
bodies might have been buried? Bir Desai & Co. folded up over two years ago, Nene
updated everyone present in the Operations Room. The last person in command of the
mob was a guy called Raaj who shifted operations due to growing heat from Mumbai
Police. He, however, kept most businesses here but moved his base to Dubai. The
details are in the file. He pointed at a dossier on the table.

Rita grabbed the file and walked to her office.


Bir Desais son Jay Desai was Vivianes paramour; Jay Desai Junior was their son.
With all illegitimate businesses listed firearms, illicit alcohol, hired-killings it
was obvious where Jay Desai Junior got access to the Glock and Chloral Hydrate. And
the copious supply of Dubai SIM cards.
Nene was right. Jay Desai had passed on the leadership of Desai & Co. to Raaj in
2005.
Then, Jay Desai vanished. Just vanished. No explanation. No reason. Nothing. No one
knew where he went. It was no business of police if an adult, compos mentis with no
obvious mental problems went missing unless there were grounds to believe there's
been some fatality or if the missing person was accused of any crime, and in Jay Desai's
case there was neither till now. And, as he had no apparent kith or kin, no one even
reported him missing. It was two years since.
Rita studied past solved and cold cases of serial murders yet again. Quite
often the idea of picking up a victim, the modus operandi or some element might have,
subconsciously, been lifted from it. Hours of studying turned up nothing. Jay Desai
wasnt a copycat killer in any sense of the word. No theory explained it. This case, if
ever solved, would make a good case study.
What next? Rather than fostering further headless speculation, Rita called the Ops
Room to confirm if the uniformed police force in the city had started ferreting around for
the car.
The car was picked up by ITC Grand Sheraton cameras on one occasion, maam,
Vikram reported back.
That was enough.
It would be nave to assume it was coincidence. Rita was convinced that Jay Desai
was the murderer and that he drove the missing red Maruti. Alas, all circumstantial
evidence pointed towards a man they couldn't find. One of the most intensive manhunts
in the history of Mumbai Police had been a dismal failure and it persistently hurt like a
bleeding blister under their feet. But Rita's grit didnt falter. She was as determined now
as she had been since that first call at 3 a.m. in June.
The cause clbre was living up to its name. The media dug deep to glean info;
newspaper sales shot up, news viewership rose dramatically, even advertising rates
during special news bulletins commanded a premium. A mass hysteria was being bred: a
maniac killer at large with an already defunct Mumbai Police failing miserably.
Despite the pressure from media, public and the bigwigs of the political world, the
police were unsuccessful in picking up any more scents on the day.

TWENTY-SEVEN
2007
This Thursday morning was not unlike any other of the fifty-one in the year. The sun was
diligently doing its shift, the traffic had started early; even the street vendors had
recommenced their businesses in Bandra. Rita, having spent another traumatic night
engrossed in the puzzle that consumed her, got up late. She was fully aware that her
driver, on instructions from Nene, would have slept the night in the Gypsy below, with
another policeman watching the place from a distance. That annoyed her. She, as the
chief of the investigation, couldnt provide that security to those who actually required
it.
Lets visit Sewri cemeterylets see Vivianes grave, she called Vikram.
Why, he wanted to ask, but the words that came out of his mouth were: Yes maam.
'I'll be down in thirty minutes.
Searching for Vivianes grave in the cemetery was time consuming, but not difficult.
It took Rita and Vikram over two hours to find it. One look at it and it was evident
that someone tended to Vivianes grave. There was a wreath left there; not fresh, but not
stale old either. Someone unquestionably visited her grave.
Jay Desai?
Vikram saw the point. Is this what you wanted to confirm? Doesnt it tell you
something?
Her son?
Can you think of anyone else? Vikrams countenance confirmed Ritas premise. We
need to find Jay Desai.
Staring at the grave, Ritas eyes narrowed on the brownish tinge in some letters of
Viviane Casey that were inscribed on the grave. She knelt down to take a closer look. It
was obvious someone had filled the letters V, I, V, I and A the first five with
colour. Only C in Casey carried the same brownish colour. She moved her finger slightly
over 'V' and brought it near her nose to sniff to verify what she speculated; the gloopy
brown stuff was coagulated blood. The flagitious killer had madesome kind of ormolu
of blood to inlay in certain alphabets. Why only some? Vikram, call in the Forensics to
collect trace evidence, its blood, she said in disgust.
Vikram moved a few feet away to make the calls. I called the local police too,' he
declared on his return.
Thanks. To maintain crime scene integrity, we cant leave this site unattended now.
But, why did he fill only certain letters?
Logic was failing to provide any answers. Conjectures and thoughts traversed,

paused, exited without leaving anything behind. Not even footprints. Rita looked up in
frustration, but the sky didn't provide answers to anyone, and it wasnt making an
exception for her. No idea. It could well be that rain has completely washed off the
blood from other letters or perhaps and thats a bigger probability he is feeding
his ghoulish appetite in some way. Vikram, this killer is sick. Rita turned around. Jesus
Christ, she whispered to herself.
The two detectives looked around to see if they could find anything that could give
them some other clues, anything inadvertently left behind by the killer.
Remember, he is getting slick at killing, but he is prone to making a mistake if he
does something different Hadnt Ash pointed that out?
But maybe, visiting the grave wasnt out of the routine?
The local police arrived, the Forensics followed right behind.
I want all the blood analysed ASAP, Rita instructed before leaving the site.
DCP Ferreira? a male voice asked when Rita picked up the phone in her office later
that afternoon.
Speaking. Who is it?
Jay Desai. You went to my mothers graveI thought let me save you the trouble of
speculating any more.
Oh, so youve decided to reveal your identity. Rita was aware the office lines
always had a call-trace on. Standard procedure.
I know that you know that much by now, DCP. It must be really frustrating for you
guys to know who the killer is, why is he killing those fucking scums, but still not being
able to get to him. I am quite confident you will never reach him.
Why was he talking in third person?
Why use the voice scrambler then, why disguise your true voice? Rita could
visualise Jay Desai sniggering with opprobrious, obstinate confidence.
You dont think I am stupid enough to give myself away.
There is no such thing as everlasting impunity. No one is immune from being
apprehended by the police, Jay Desai. How do you think youll escape, ever thought
about that?
I am not used to planning exit strategies DCP. I did not get into this to run away. I am
here for a purpose, to do some cleansing, to clean Mumbai of the filthy fucking beasts
that ruin innocent lives. Something, actually, your police forces should be doing. You
should be grateful to me. The voice was arrogant and provoking.
When did you visit your mothers grave last time?
You sound like you are gathering facts to write an article on me on Wikipedia now. I
can provide you that satisfaction only if you can catch me. She is my mother and I can
visit her anytime I want. I dont need to inform you or seek your permission.
Rita noted that Jay Desai mentioned is rather than was. In his warped mind, he
visited his mother, not her tomb. What is it that youve called me for then?
Ahforgot about that. What are you doing tomorrow night? Why? Are you

planning to take me out for dinner?


Only if you let me stay in your apartment after dinnerlike Dr Mattel.
A moment of silence hung between them. Rita shouldn't have been aghast that Jay
Desai knew about Ash and her, but it was still a jolt. I have to compliment you on your
information source,' she responded calmly.
Wish I could say the same for you DCP.'
'Now that Margaret is gone '
'Just because you chased Margaret away, I hope you havent relaxed thinking that I
cannot find other bastards to exterminate. The intrepidity was shocking, the voice
warning; it had switched to a serious tone now.
Is that what you called to tell me?
Well the reason I called you is, unlike last time when I only gave you a few hours
warning before I carved out Dina Patel in Andheri, I wanted to give you more than a
twenty- four hour notice before I send someone else to hell. It was a forewarning. No
guilt. No shame or fright. No sadness or amusement. No sound of any apparent motive.
No shrewdness or distress. Just a statement that univocally also said take-it or leave-it
in the same breath.
You arent doing me favours, and you know that very well Jay Desai. Youre saving
your own skin because on that occasion we had traced the call to the area where you had
called from and put it on alert, so you want to avoid a big reception this time.
Whatever you think DCP, though your high alert couldnt stop Patel from making his
final journey, did it?
Dont do it Jay Desai
Why dont you stop me, DCP? What youre doing wont Goodbye DCP.
The call was traced to yet another unregistered mobile phone located at Churchgate.
But, twenty-fucking-four hours later the killer could be anywhere in Mumbai. Rita
requested Jatin to check the Immigration records: a few days before and after the
murders. Perhaps Jay Desai was so confident he could never be caught because he only
flew into the country to kill? There was a possibility he did that, but there was an even
bigger possibility that he travelled under an alias.
Police had still not been able to track down Fernandos stolen car, which was a
bummer. Jay Desai had started the clock. There were still far too many unknowns that
got Rita anxious. Only knowing that the killer would strike the next day cracked nothing.
Who would he kill, and where?
Jatin retuned like a soldier who had lost a battle. Jay Desai hadnt flown in and out
of Mumbai as speculated, not as Jay Desai at any rate.
Despite the rising pressure from Crawford Market including a personal call from
ACP Joshis office the Forensics hadnt run enough tests to give out the blood
analysis reports to the police. They, however, promised to work all through the night to
provide the same by the morning.
Even if we find out that it is the killers blood, we do not have anything to match it
with. How does it make us any wiser? Jatin questioned.

You may be right Jatin, but my fear is that it isnt the killers blood.
Whose could it be then?
Lets wait for the report tomorrow morning.
Rita, though she hadnt mentioned whom she thought the blood could belong to,
insinuated and relayed her apprehension. Apart from Fernando his death had been
comparatively archaic there had been six murders and there were six alphabets on
Vivianes grave that had contained residue of blood. Was there no end to coincidences, a
terminus ad quem?
Working through the night with trace evidence collected at Vivianes grave, the forensic
team delivered as promised. Rita had goosebumps reading the report; the results were as
forbidding as the detectives had deduced. All the six letters on Viviane's grave had been
garnished with blood from a victim. The killer had carried his victim's blood to
Viviane's grave, like he was endeavouring to cleanse her by performing some kind of a
purification ritual. Everyone in the room looked at each other, no words were uttered;
the depravity of the killer was more than disconcerting.
Son. Crusader. Nemesis. Irrespective of why he did it a filial valediction to his
mother, a campaign against one of the most offensive professions in the world, or honest
revenge Jay Desai was, in the eyes of the law, a killer. It might have been instigated
by miserable memories and begun as retaliation, but it was now decadence; infilling his
mother's inscribed name on her grave with blood of those he killed, mocking the police
by calling Rita, and using devious gadgets to masquerade his voice couldnt have been
described as anything else.
Or Jay Desai could be disabused of all crimes if he was insane, which his defence
lawyer would plead in any case, were he ever brought to trial. Despite his confession,
even the Boston Strangler's defence had tried getting a 'not guilty by reason of insanity'
verdict, which, gratefully, the judge had ruled inadmissible. Why wouldn't Jay Desai's
defence not use the same tactics, but expect, of course, a different result?
The much-anticipated good news came in at last: at noon.
The car by now legendary in police circles the red Maruti belonging to late
Mr Fernando had been traced on the outskirts of Mumbai, forty kilometres north-west of
Mumbai: parked deep in the thick mangroves near Panvel Creek near a makeshift oneroom hut-like structure contrived to conceal. A constable on his beat, to scout for
druggies in the high vegetation area, came across the car. He looked around to find no
one, and hence called the local police station to see if the registration details on the car
matched any stolen ones. It was the car they had been looking for; licence plates, faded
by harsh Mumbai sun, were still recognisable.
The instructions from Crawford Market were clear: "Watch. Do not advance."
Scene of crime crew, the Forensics had all been radioed to discreetly surround the
area and wait till the detectives arrived. Local police was instructed to stay vigilant, to
retain the suspect if he left the hut, ask about the ownership of the car. They had been

warned to approach suspect with great caution as he could well be armed.


Vikram was not in office, and waiting for him seemed a daft idea; Rita left with Jatin
who drove her Gypsy. 'Any news of Anita?' Rita lowered the radio to start a
conversation, as her driver appeared sullen.
'No. She didn't take my advice. She won't file a formal complaint. Wants to handle
her problem her way...'
'And that way is...?'
'Don't know. Last I spoke to her was yesterday afternoon. Since then she's switched
off her mobile. I caught her on MSN Messenger late last night around ten but she
logged out abruptly without saying bye. I tried again this morning, but the phone's still
off.'
'I assume you've left messages.' Nod. Yes.
'And it's Friday today,' Rita resumed the conversation. 'I hope she doesn't do anything
stupid...'
'Like?' Rita turned to look at Jatin.
'You know, something like committing suicide...?'
'What makes you think she'd do something so drastic?'
'I don't know ma'am, I guess I'm worried.'
'I have a plan.'
'What?'
'When we get back, remind me to call her boss Narang and invite him for a late
evening meeting at our office along with Anita. Once they are at Crawford Market, we'll
keep Anita back for some briefing.'
'You're a genius ma'am. Thank you.' Jatin looked cheerful already.
The traffic was heavy till Antop Hill. To avoid the crowded Chembur area, Jatin
took a slightly longer route along the Bharat Petroleum Refinery.
'Never been to this part of town,' Rita commented.
Bridge.
'We bypassed Chembur.' Jatin pointed towards the left and turned right for Vashi
'The Chembur murder was impulsive, it happened unplanned. Al Khan had to die as the
killer was cleaning up loose ends. Poor guy, he was killed even when he was not on the
hit list.' The mental pictures of Khan's ransacked photo-studio, his corpse, and his
congealed blood filled in one of the engraved letters of Viviane's tomb hopscotched in
Rita's brain. 'Then, why was his blood used to colour an alphabet on the grave?'
Jatin, eyes on the road, shook his head in a no-idea manner. 'Do you remember what
letter was it?'
Another no-idea kind of shake of the head reoccurred. 'I bet it was C.'
The pattern she had been looking for was suddenly glaring at Rita, like cat's eyes in
the dark, difficult to miss. She didn't. However foursquare the emerged pattern was in
her mind, she needed substantiation. She pulled out her mobile and called Vikram. 'Good
afternoon Vikram, it's Rita...we are almost near Vashi BridgeOK, I want you to pull

out the forensic report that came in the morning to check whose blood was in letter C on
Viviane's graveyes, I'll hold.' She glanced at Jatin, then without a warning pulled out
his pen from his shirt pocket. Turning around, she picked up a writing pad and turned to
a new page, ready in case she needed to note down something.
'Khan's blood was in letter C, ma'am,' Vikram came back on the line. 'Thanks for
confirming Vikram. My gut feel told me the same.'
'How?'
'You'll have to help me with the order here Vikram. The first murder happened in
Versova, check if the first V in Viviane is filled with the Versova victim's blood?'
'Yes. It's Adit Lele's blood.'
'You can work out the others and give me a call back.'
'How did you guess that?' Jatin quizzed when Rita disconnected the line.
'It's called syllogism you need to deduce by putting together two assumptions. If
Al Khan's wasn't a planned murder why, then, was his blood on the grave? And if blood
was put on the grave in six letters why was N the next alphabet in Viviane
swapped for C, the first letter of her surname? Why not follow the order? In that case
Khan's blood should have been found on the fourth letter because he was the fourth
victim. No, because C stands for the location where Khan was killed: Chembur. That,
precisely, is the pattern he has been following: location. And hence, the time between the
murders varied, till the killer found a target in the area he wanted. This makes me ponder
that Khan, after all, might have been on the hit list, but was pulled forward due to
reasons we know.'
Vikram called back to confirm her syllogism as the Gypsy crossed the Vashi Bridge
and zipped through Palm Beach Road.
So the next victim would be in a location that starts with N?
In theory, yesif Margaret was around to let him know, there would have been a
higher probability. With her gone, he might not have access to tricks looking for girls. Or
maybe there is more than one Margaret, whom we do not yet know about.
There was a police jeep waiting for them a little way after Sector 44A to guide them
through the unpaved road that led to the target.
The dweller of the hut had been ingenious enough to siphon electricity off a highvoltage overhead transmission line that was located a couple of hundred metres away.
The hut also drew in an illegal telephone line from a pole on the other side. Someone
had planned this, seemingly, ad hoc place.
Look, Jatin pointed. It took a keen eye to spot a pole ten metres away from the
cottage that had a camera mounted on. If the occupant had been in the hut, he would know
about the police outside.
So he even ensured he was alarmed in case we get to this place. Stay back
everyone.
If he is inside, hell be warned if we go near the place.
But in that case he must have already seen the constable who checked the car.
One policeman scouting around might not have bothered him, I am sure. Rita

looked around. Ask someone to go around and cut off the electric supply. That way if
hes inside he might walk out to check. And the camera should also disconnect.
Yes maam.
If Jay Desai drove here in this car, how did he leave?
Its only a short walk to the main road madam, the local police inspector
responded. He could have taken the bus from there
They waited ten minutes till a constable could find an instrument in one of the Scene
of Crime vans toolboxes that could hack the wire. A total of seventeen officers were in
attendance, plus the other teams who were instructed to stay back till they got clearance
from Rita.
The team waited another five minutes to see if the hermit stepped out of the hut.
Nada.
Rita looked at Jatin. He was sharp enough to catch the instructions. He gestured to
the four others who instantly comprehended his tacit signal and, with them following
him, flaked off from the rest of the team to go behind the shed. If Jay Desai was inside, it
was sensible to surround the hut. There was a large wooden window at the back of the
hut, which was sizeable enough to escape, but it was shut. Jatin, crouching, silently
closed in to check for any sound. None. Stationing the four uniforms at the rear, he
gingerly walked around to the front.
The shut window in the front was tiny. Rita looked at the wooden door. Rusted iron
latch, a Godrej padlock; primitive security compared to what Jay Desai demonstrated by
using ultra gadgets like multiplicative voice scramblers and sophisticated phone bugs.
Should they commit an offence by breaking in, or should they wait to get a search
warrant? Rita looked at her watch. 5.40 p.m. If Jay Desai's telephone warning was to be
trusted, it was merely a few hours away from the next murder. Ask them to break the
lock, Rita told Jatin as she pulled out her Smith & Wesson.

----------------------------------... I Love you Rachu ...


Dear Frnds pls spread this msg until its reach to my rachu
I thinks see knows my name
Book Downloaded from: EBOOK4IN.BLOGSPOT.COM

TWENTY-EIGHT
2007
Friday: 4:10 p.m.
Anita Raizada switched off her computer, packed her bag and left the office of
NEWS of the DAY earlier than usual. Not many colleagues noticed her leave. A few,
who saw, thought she was leaving to cover some news; others did not bother to give it a
thought. No one knew, though, that she was to return to the office later that night for a
rendezvous with the CEO. Except Narang, of course. However, what even Narang
wasnt acquainted with was that Anita had stealthily dropped into his office before the
office hours that very day.
Friday: 5:20 a.m.
Anita had set the wake-up alarm for five, which she put on snooze a couple of times
before she left her warm bed. She put on her jeans and rumpled T-shirt, and rushed out of
her apartment, which was actually four blocks away from where Jatin had dropped her a
few times after dinner. Unknown to most, she owned an old Vespa. She put on a fullmask helmet, kicked-started the scooter and rocketed towards her office.
Parking her scooter in the building next to the one that housed her own offices, she
walked without removing her helmet to hide herself from the prying building cameras.
She rushed into the building of NEWS of the DAY inconspicuously. Taking the elevator
up to the seventeenth floor, she swiped the card to gain entry into the office and headed
for Narangs cabin. It was locked. She combed through the drawer of his secretary. No
keys.
Picking up a large paper clip, she straightened it. Then carefully bending its head to
an angle she considered adequate for the task, she inserted the pin and gave it a forceful
shake.
She pulled out the pin and read the impressions. Digging into her bag she drew out
her nail file and chiselled the stretched-out paper clip to make abrasions on it. She
tucked the pin back into the lock again and repeated the process. The lock gave way in
the fifth insertion.
Anita walked in swiftly, opened the drawer where Narang stored his alcohol. She
removed an unopened bottled of Absolut and replaced it with the bottle she pulled out of
her bag.
Anita walked out of the office, locking it as though it had never been opened. The
lights switched off automatically by the time she took the elevator to the ground floor.
The only way anyone could have known of someone's visit was if they checked the
computerised record of entries and exit to the office. Even then, they couldn't have

established who had dropped in out of hours Anita had nicked a guest swipe card
weeks ago so it couldn't be tracked back to her. No one checked records on a regular
basis anyway. That fallback was required only if there had been some embezzlement or
break-in.
At 6:30 a.m. Anita was back in her bed for a powernap. What was the rush, she
smirked. She had to be in office at nine.
Thursday: 6:40 p.m.
Raaj was on the ninth hole at the Dubai Creek Golf Course when his mobile buzzed.
He excused himself because the call was from India. 'Must be urgent business,' he told
his partners. It must have been past 8 p.m. in India, he calculated looking at his watch.
Bhai, I needed to consult on something. The call was from one of the guys
responsible for his illicit alcohol distribution back in Mumbai.
What is it?
Remember the female contact of your friend, Jay Desai? She called to ask for a
sealed bottle of foreign liquor.
So what is the problem? I told you to give her anything she wants, anytime. Why do
you need to call me to check, you moron?'
Bhai, she wants us to open the bottle, drain almost half the content, fill it back with
Chloral Hydrate and reseal it like it were a new bottle.
So?
It can be fatal bhai.
You dont think you work for the Pope by any chance, do you? Should I supply?
My instructions have always been clear. If this friend of Jay Desai turns up at your
hideout and sets it alightdont fucking question, dont stop her, just walk away. What
part of my instruction wasn't clear? Raaj almost barked.
It will be done bhai.
The bottle fifty per cent of which was Chloral Hydrate was shipped out at
9:20 p.m. the same night.

TWENTY-NINE
2007
Rita pointed out to the uniformed officers and constables where they should take up
positions. Albeit remote, there was a possibility that Jay Desai was inside he could
have locked the front door and climbed in from the rear window and they couldnt
afford to take the risk.
Her trusted S&W in hand, Rita leaned against the wall next to the doorframe on the
right; Jatin positioned himself on the left. If Jay Desai were armed he'd have two
detectives, loaded to fusillade behind him when he stepped out, and if he tried to flee
there was enough manpower to hold him back. Two additional patrol vehicles had been
stationed on the outskirts of mangrove to keep an eye out for anyone who wandered
towards the hut.
There was no bolt cutter around. One of the constables put a real heavy-duty
screwdriver between the lock and the loop and gave it a hard knock with a hammer. The
jangling sound made would have certainly announced to the occupier if he was inside
that someone was at the door, but there was no reaction. Two more strikes and the
lock bust open. The constable unlatched the bolt and rushed out of the line of battle.
Rita kicked the door open. She slithered in, Jatin covering her in case of a side
attack. A little sunlight pervaded the room through the door, but it was enough for them to
see that the place was uninhabited. Rita gestured to the uniformed inspector to open the
windows.
'I think you should leave the room...' Rita raised her hands to show the latex gloves
she had carried to ensure they wouldn't tamper any evidence. 'Jatin and I shall scour the
place for any clues before we hand it over to the evidence teams. In the meantime,
please take control of the car which we know is stolen property and ask the scene
of crime officers to start their investigations. I'd like to see any material you pack before
you give it to the forensic laboratories or fingerprint bureau for analysis.'
The room a twelve by ten space had a single unmade bed, a small writing desk
with a desktop computer that was connected to the telephone line that had been illegally
pulled in, a printer, and some papers scattered around. There were signs that someone
visited the place recently; it didn't seem like it had been uninhabited for a long time.
There wasn't any dampness or smell of staleness. The owner must have aired it
regularly.
'We need some light.' Rita looked at Jatin.
The operation perforce halted for another fifteen minutes till the police disconnected
the security camera and joined the cables they had, themselves, unplugged before getting

in. The electricity and telephone lines were restored.


What if it was being monitored elsewhere? Rita contemplated for a moment, but let
the thought pass.
Every prediction that Ash Mattel had made was eerily coming true. Jay Desai was in
love with his art. Newspaper clippings of his barbarities adorned the walls, along with
photographs of all his victims that only he could have clicked after killing them.
Macabre. The victims, their severed bodies, the blood-splattered surroundings, all
pinned on the walls. The tableau might be quenching Jay Desai's morbid lust, but it
elicited disgust, anger in the detectives. It was evident that the guy was deranged and
positively dangerous. Someone who wouldn't blink before killing, his lethality would
make no allowances for detectives. There was a map of Mumbai pasted on one of the
walls near the bed. The six murder locations were flagged with pins; they would most
certainly have been put in to embellish the map after the act trophies he bestowed on
himself as there were no signs of where the next murder would occur.
'Switch on the computer Jatin,' Rita said looking hither and yon, and finding nothing
of any consequence. Jay Desai wasn't prone to leaving clues. There was not even as
much as a shred of paper with a written word on it. What help would handwriting be in
any event? Jay Desai had always only communicated through computer prints or
telephone.
'It requires a password,' Jatin said
Of course, what were they thinking?
'Try Viviane all small, no caps; people generally dont use caps in passwords
unless forced to. For someone to be a crusader against injustice to his mother and her
profession, it was illogical to think in any other direction.
'Incorrect ma'am.'
'vivianecasey?'
'Incorrect. We have only one more chance.'
'What if we go wrong this time? Can no one break into this machine after that?'
'Oh yes, it can be done, but not here, not now, not by me. We'd have to take it to the
experts. They have ways to extract info from hard drives.'
It sounded like an acceptable risk. Rita started to say something but lost the thread.
Her mind was somewhere else. 'What was Viviane's real namethe Russian name when
she came into this country?'
Jatin offered his usual I-have-no-idea shrug.
'It was a Russian name beginning with 'V' I remember that much. Call Vikram, ask
him to look it in the file labelled Viviane, it's in the Ops Room.'
'v-a-r-i-n-k-a.' Rita's wandering mind hurried back in the room when she heard Jatin
repeat and note it down. He kept the phone down and looked at Rita.
They had, but one chance left.
'No caps,' Rita uttered and closed her eyes. She didn't need to think. She knew it.
'Bingo,' cried Jatin.
The computer accepted the password.

They waited for the machine to load. The desktop had a picture of a young Viviane
taken, probably, before she left the former USSR. Perhaps Margaret had a photograph
that she gave to her friend's son?
Jatin clicked on the Documents folder. There were a few files. The most important
one titled letter was the first message that Narang at NEWS of the DAY had
received asking him to cover the news.
A sense of relief pervaded the two. They now had more than circumstantial evidence
that the person who used this hut had typed the first note to confess the murders and
provide evidence in shape of the SIM card. That person if he wasn't Jay Desai
was someone else close to Viviane, close enough to keep her photograph on the desktop,
knew her real name to use as password. Jay Desai fitted the description; he had the
motive, he had the opportunity to kill. Moreover, in his last call, he even had the
audacity to announce he was Jay Desai, though a telephone recording of an admission of
guilt through a voice scrambler could hardly stand as evidence in any court.
There was a lot in the room that could be dusted for prints and fibres, but Rita
recognised that could wait. They already knew who the killer was now; trace evidence
would only confirm that if they ever found Jay Desai. Finding him before he struck again
was the pressing need. She slumped into the chair to explore the computer further. The
machine wasn't off-the-shelf, it was significantly ungraded: a lot of additional software,
drivers and receivers had been uploaded to wield incoming messages from transmitters
that had been used to bug telephone lines. Of course they were defunct now, after the
police had successfully tracked them down and disabled them, but the software attested
that sound signals had been received from two separate sources.
'Have a look outside Jatin, check if theyve found anything in the car. Any drycleaning slips, receipts, any recurring car park tokens, petrol station bills, anything that
can lead us to another address.'
Rita ran an advanced search on "Rita" and an eponymous folder sprung up. She
could feel her hand tremble over the mouse did she want to see it? Want, no but she
needed to. The folder contained photographs of her, taken through her bedroom window
by a telephoto lens on various days, not just once. There was one photo that had Ash
Mattel at her apartment. Nauseating. Sick fuck, you will rot in hell, she almost spat out.
She looked at the Internet history. Jay Desai hadn't expected visitors to find the hut
and if they did, not to crack the password on his computer on their first visit. He hadn't
bothered to clear the history, though a lot had been deleted due to the default setting,
which on his computer Rita checked was 120 days. The guy had researched
extensively on toxicology and microphones, used Google maps for locations, and
searched the Internet for information on police officials, especially Rita. What else had
she expected? That Jay Desai would have shopped for a tuxedo on the web and made the
payment by American Express registered to his bona fide home address?
Nothing gave. There wasn't a location starting with 'N' that Jay Desai had searched
for.
Rita looked at the time on the right end corner of her screen. It was 19:17, but it did

not register in her brain. Her eyes saw the MSN icon. What if...?
She clicked to open the window.
The username was filled in: angel_from_hell@hotmail.com, the cursor was blinking
in the password box. She looked for the paper Jatin had noted down the spelling on and
found it: v-a-r-i-n-k-a, she typed and signed in. How would going through Jay Desai's
contacts on MSN help? She asked herself. However, it wasn't a long list to go through:
just three names. Raaj, Margaret, and she blinked her eyes a couple of times Jatin
Singh. What the fuck was Jatin Singh doing on Jay Desai's MSN buddy list?
Her eyes rose to see the display name of angel_from_hell: Anita Raizada.
Anita Riazada? Really? Why? Did Jatin know about this? Was he an accomplice?
Her mind went numb, all reasoning dissipated. Koan, according to Zen Buddhism, was a
puzzle that had no solution; it was mentioned to highlight the inadequacy of human
reasoning, which Rita was experiencing at this moment.
Didn't Jatin say he chatted with her on MSN the night before?
Rita waited till she could think clearly. Did Viviane have a daughter that no one
knew about? Was Anita Viviane's daughter? Or younger sister who, perhaps, came
looking for her later? Flashes of Anita emerged in front of her eyes. Wasn't she a pale
shade of white? Rita had even asked Jatin to advise Anita to see a doctor? Or was Anita
merely an accessory?
Fuck.
'Jatin.' Rita realised she had screamed Jatin louder than she had intended. But it
worked. Jatin came in on the double.
'Is everything OK, ma'am?'
'Yes...no, actually...' Rita turned around to face him. 'Didn't you say you chatted with
Anita on MSN last night?'
'Yes ma'am, but, she abruptly '
'What is her MSN ID?'
'Angel underscore something...it's been a while since I added her so don't exactly
remember the sign-in ID. Why?'
'Look.' Rita pointed at the computer terminal. 'You are on the buddy list.'
'What am I doing on the buddy list of Jay Desai?'
You are on the buddy list of Anita Raizada.'
'Why would Anita log in from here?'
'That's a good question... I don't know the answer. The ID was filled in, I just typed
in the password you had received from Vikram and now I am logged in as Anita with
you on my buddy list. So it fits in. It's either Anita's computer and this is her hut or she
was the last person who used this PC. At any rate, she's connected to Jay Desai.'
'Or maybe because she's involved in the investigation and she was ahead of us in
getting here?'
'So she follows a serial killer, finds out his hideout, breaks into his hut I can't see
signs of break-in, but let's consider she does it somehow and she cracks his password
and logs into MSN chat? And she has only two other friends namely, Margaret and Raaj

the only two people we know from our investigations who could possibly be
accessories?'
Jatin's face paled. The implications were seeping into his dazed brain. How could a
girl he loved and cared for be involved with Jay Desai? How could he have gone so
wrong in his judgment? "I have a past." Anita had once told him. Is this what she had
meant?
'I know where she lives,' he said aloud.
But why doesnt she have Jay Desai on her buddy list? Rita mumbled, not expecting
a response. They called Vikram. 'Vikram.' Rita took charge of the conversation. 'Listen
very carefully.' She heard the ruffle of the paper the nearest available paper had been
torn off to scribble upon. Jatin will give you Anita Raizadas address in a minute. I
want you to ask S/I Nene to proceed to the address, with uniformed police, and if Anita
is there, arrest her.'
'Arrest? Arrest Anita? Why?'
'Vikram, I'll answer all your questions. But first' Rita turned to Jatin. 'Give Vikram
the address so they can get to her residence.'
Jatin took the phone; he, of course, did not know the postal address, but he gave the
name of the building outside which he had dropped Anita a few times.
'Ma'am.' He gave the receiver back to Rita. 'We'll call you back.'
The two detectives let the truth sink in. In the ensuing silence they awkwardly looked
at each other, at the computer, around the room. Rita wondered if Anita was the assassin;
she should then be heading off to kill someone and not go to get seduced by Narang as
Jatin feared. Why had Anita then told a pitiable story to Jatin? 'Jesus Christ, she
suddenly yelled, like she had touched a live wire.
What happened maam? Nariman Point starts with N.
Jatin drew a blank. His eyes conveyed the emptiness behind them. Rita had always
suspected if Jatin had a split personality. Sometimes he drew inferences instantly, other
times his brain moved like a turtle on a treadmill.
JatinNariman Point starts with a N. Does it not strike you that the next letter on
Vivianes grave that needs blood is also N. Narang is a filthy man, her next target?
But
Rita was already on phone with Vikram. Call up the Nariman Point police station
and ask them to proceed to the office of NEWS of the DAY immediately. If they see
Anita Raizada, arrest her. But, warn them to be careful, she might rather, will be
armed.
Leave one of the Mathurs behind in Ops Room to co-ordinate, the rest of you
whoever is in Ops Room at this moment rush to Nariman Point. Two of you make sure
that you get to Amit Narang I don't care what pretext you use but stay with him,
don't let him out of your sight.' There was a pressing tone in her voice. Now!
Keeping the phone down, she looked at her watch. 7:31 p.m. She switched off the
computer and hurried out of the hut. Uniformed police had scanned the car and crime
scene personnel had taken over. Zulfi Khan, the inspector leading the search, stood next

to a constable. Inspector Khan, she called out.


'Yes, ma'am.'
'How far is the nearest helipad?'
'There's a helipad in Panvel at Karnala Sports Academy, it's about 15-20 kilometres,
but there shouldn't be much traffic. You should be there in twenty minutes maximum,
ma'am. Where do you need to go?'
'Nariman Point. The naval base in Colaba has a helipad, and that's just four
kilometres from Nariman Point. Let me speak to Commissioner Saxena, special
permission would be required to land at the naval base, which shouldn't be difficult if
the Commissioner requests.'
She walked a few paces away and called Sexy to give a succinct account of the
discovery. 'As you can appreciate it sir, I am not trying to bypass ACP Joshi, but it was
important I reached you directly to save time. I need an emergency police helicopter
from Panvel to the naval base to get to Nariman Point ASAP sir.'
'It will be done. Rush to the Panvel helipad.'
'Thanks sir.' Rita disconnected and called Vikram. Get in your jeep and see me at
the helipad at the naval base at eight-fifteen.'
'Helicopter? Is everything alright ma'am?'
'I am in a rush Vikram. Just do as I say. I'll explain everything once I board the
helicopter.'
'Yes ma'am.' Vikram sensed the urgency.
For once, Rita did not hear the ceremonial scribbling of pen on paper. She beckoned
Jatin to meet her in the Gypsy. 'Inspector Khan,' she instructed as she got into the jeep.
'Take control of everything, we have to leave.'
The inspector gave a salute of acceptance.
Rita trusted Jatin, but his romantic involvement meant a conflict of interest at any
rate. They drove in silence for the next ten minutes; Jatin had put the red flashing light on
the hood of Rita's Gypsy as he sped through the sparse traffic. Only when they were
close to the helipad, close enough to see dust rising due to the recently landed helicopter
rotors that were still in motion, did he open his mouth again. 'Do we leave the jeep here
ma'am?'
As much as she would have liked to avoid the issue, Rita knew she had to convey.
'You're not coming Jatin.'
'Why ma'am?'
'I'll explain later.'
'But ma'am, I've been part of this investigation from the beginning.'
'Inspector Jatin,' Rita mentioning Jatin's rank, and her tone, carried enough weight for
Jatin to realise Rita meant those words. 'For reasons that you should understand, you're
hereby relieved of this case.'
'What?'
'You heard me Inspector Jatin, do not go back to the hut, and do not attempt to go near
the Ops Room. That's an order. Drop me here, go home, and I shall see you in office

tomorrow.'
'Why are you doing this to me ma'am?'
'That's an order. No more questions,' were Rita's last words before she got down
from the jeep.
The helicopter took off at three minutes after 8 p.m.
Rita called Vikram to update him of her startling breakthrough. The call over, she
looked down at the Elephanta Caves in the Arabian Sea. Weren't they the symbol of
triumph, of justice? Right over wrong, good over evil? Mahabharata the greatest
Indian epic ever written said that the Pandavas had built these temples. Pandavas,
who despite losing their kingdom and their polyandrous wife in a game of dice, had been
victorious in defeating their evil cousins in the end; even Lord Krishna had sided with
them. Agnostic as she might have believed herself to be, her pleading eyes went up
towards the sky to look for the ultimate power.
'Jesus,' she murmured softly.
Thoughts raged in Ritas mind. Were the killers a brother and sister team? The only
bond that could have ensured one wasn't blackmailing the other for all the help extended,
for all the secrets kept? Rita recognised it was time to stop speculating and follow the
evidence. The evidence was that Anita Raizada's footprints were found in the killer's
secret hut. Anita Raizada was the one who was to add the dead man's blood for N of
Nariman Point to the inscription on Viviane's grave. All else was conjecture.
Would this nightmarish bloodbath ever end? Although DCP Rita Ferreira had
foreseen this couldnt have a happy ending it certainly wasn't another opera buffa
but intuition hissed that this would end in more tears than she had envisioned.

THIRTY
2007
The serrated blade in Victoronix CyberTool 41 was essentially designed to be a saw.
The four-inch blade could chop wires, cut wood, even slice steel pipes. Human flank
needed even less effort. One such Swiss Army knife currently rubbed shoulders in a
secure pocket of a black crocodile leather handbag with a Glock 26 Compact, which,
though she had never required a second shot, was fully loaded to fire ten rounds.
Anita Raizada unscrewed a bottle of Smirnoff and took a large sip, gulped it down
and took another swig. She could feel the liquid burning her insides as it gushed down
her throat to the oesophagus. On any other evening she would have had a few more
swallows, but she knew she couldn't take any more: alcohol would fuel desire, but
hinder the performance. She couldn't afford to fail today.
Unless she went through metal detectors or an X-ray machine, no one with a sound
mind could imagine the contents of the bag that hung from her slender shoulder. Her
startling good looks, she knew, could weaken even the knees of neutered men. Dressed
to the nines, in a designer fitted linen shirt and skin-tight jeans that outlined every curve,
she stepped out of her one-bedroom apartment and called a cab, minutes before the
helicopter carrying DCP Rita Ferreira took off from Panvel forty kilometres away.
Oblivious of his prey's intentions, hallucinating about his rendezvous, Amit Narang
didn't even have as much as a vague misgiving of what was in store for him that evening.
He wasn't in love, no. Neither was it passion. It was sickness, a sickness to seduce
every girl who worked for him. He had no worries that his wife might ever find out
about his trysts. Who would tell her? He had no qualms, he didn't care either. He
provided the dinner on the table, the roof under which she lived, the expensive clothes
she bought, the fancy parties she threw. Plus, what about the social stigma of her
separating from a media mogul Narang believed he was? His lust had argued with
reason, and lost; it questioned judgment, and prevailed. The lust was simply
indomitable. Oh no, he couldn't care less if she found out.
Anita got out of the cab three blocks away and walked towards her office building
cautiously. It was dark and she knew exactly where in the building security personnel
would be. There should be three men on duty, she reckoned. Although there were twenty
floors in the building, occupied by various business enterprises, she couldn't risk being
recognised or seen sneaking into the office at this hour. Not today. Carefully avoiding
being sighted, she got into the building five minutes before the troops had started
arriving at the building of which she wasn't yet aware. But she wasn't nave. She

knew Mumbai Police would be alert after she had given Rita a warning.
She took the lift to the NEWS of the DAY floor, pulled out an improvised key she
had made a while ago, from her bag, and switched off the lift. Only the building security
had the keys to restart the same. They, however, would need to walk up the stairs to the
seventeenth floor because she called the second lift car on the opposite side and
switched it off too. Good luck to anyone who might need to ascend or descend it. What
were they doing in office till eight-thirty on a Friday evening in any case? Narang, she
understood, had a reason: his itch, his filthy itch that he would soon regret. Or not get the
chance to regret?
Anita swiped the visitor-card and got into the office. No one was around. Narang
would have ensured everyone had left early. A few lights were on, enough for her to
walk towards Narang's office that was brightly lit in the corner. She stopped a few
strides before the door and looked into her handbag.
Glock, check. Swiss knife, check. She zipped up the bag and softly knocked at the
door.
'Come in.'
She walked in and closed the door.
'I knew you'd come gorgeous. I know you long for me as much as I do for you.' Anita
managed a smile. Who did this idiot think he was? Brad Pitt? Salman Khan?
The dry land had begun anticipating the chopper's landing, each shred of its being arose
to receive the machine that gleamed under the floodlights. Vikram, despite it being nighttime, had to pull out his Raybans to stop dust and helicopter down-lighters getting into
his eyes.
Rita climbed down from the copter before the rotor blades stopped spinning. 'Did
the guys find Anita at her residence?' she asked her trusted lieutenant.
'She doesn't live at the address we were given, not even in that building ma'am.'
'Good Lord...have you sent someone to see Narang?'
'Their office is closed. No one, including Narang, is taking any calls there.'
'No...no...no... The office might be closed for business, but I know he's inside.'
'How can you be sure of that?'
'Forget how I know, I know it. Let's go. We know Narang's at his office. He has armtwisted Anita to fuck him tonight, by threatening to ruin her career.' Rita gave other info
as Vikram swerved in the disorderly traffic. Red flashing light on the jeep's hood
notwithstanding, the traffic was a nightmare: horns blared, vehicles traversed lanes;
everyone seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere. Usual Mumbai snafu.
'We'll be there in a couple of minutes now,' Vikram said, turning left into Jeevan
Bima
Marg.
A minute later, they could see the building where NEWS of the DAY operated from
surrounded by khakis that had cleared the porch for DCP Madam. Vikram braked
sharply to halt the jeep.

'Who's gone in?'


'No one ma'am,' Chota Mathur responded. 'The watchmen have confirmed there's no
one in the office. Moreover, the lifts aren't working either.'
'What's happened to the lifts?' Rita wilfully ignored the first part of Mathurs report.
She knew Narang was in. And so was Anita. 'They are stuck on seventeenth floor.'
'What floor is the NEWS of the DAY office?'
'Seventeenth floor madam,' one of the security guys of the building enlightened. Rita
closed her eyes. She could picture what must have happened.
'What's the matter ma'am?' Vikram had returned to Rita's side after parking the jeep.
'We're late. The lifts have been stopped at seventeenth floor. I bet Narang is stuck there.
Senior Inspector Vikram Patil, Inspector Mathur and Inspector DSouza are going with
me,' Rita addressed the flotilla. She turned to speak to the officer responsible for the
assembled uniformed troops. 'ASP Rathore, please start five minutes after us with a
dozen of your best officers, fully armed. Everyone else reports to Inspector Anand of
Crime
Branch. No one comes out or goes into the building...and retain anyone, man or
woman, who comes out. Is everything understood?'
Heads wagged.
'Where are the stairs?' she asked the security personnel who pointed towards the
blue double-doors on the left at the end of the foyer.
'Want a drink?' Narang asked.
He hadn't blinked since Anita had arrived. While he knew for certain that she'd
come, he was still surprised to see her. It was all coming together. A voice in his brain
told him to tear off her clothes and ride her, this instant; another voice whispered to him
to be patient, to devour her for hours. He decided to go with the latter. What was the
rush? He might never get the opportunity again.
'Sure.'
'What would you have?'
'Whatever you're having Amit.'
So she wasn't playing hard to get. Good. 'I'm drinking vodka.' Narang pulled out the
drawer and took out the bottle.
'Come on Amit, don't be a hoarder. You're getting a new doll, at least open a new
bottle.'
'You don't think I've mixed Rohypnol or some club drug in it...?' Narang pointed at the
half-empty bottle he had in his hand.
'Oh no. Why would you do that when I'm here willingly?'
'What would you willingly do today?'
'Whatever you ask for.'
Narang replaced the bottle in the drawer and fetched two unopened ones. 'Smirnoff
or Absolut?'
'Absolut.'
'Good choice.'

Anita smiled. You'll know that in a few minutes, you mother-fucking prick.
Narang freehandedly dispensed liberal portions of Absolut in two tumblers and
looked at Anita with raised his eyebrows to check if it was enough.
'Enough for me. I have a tiddly liver.'
'You're petite too, I like that,' Narang said with a lecherous glee, his eyes meandering
all over Anita's body.
'You should take twice the quantity you give me,' Anita uttered innocently. 'Why not?'
Narang poured another helping. His glass was almost one-half full now.' Cheers.' He
raised his glass and took a sumptuous sip. Anita raised her glass to her lips, then kept it
back and stood up suddenly, like she had remembered something.
'Is anything wrong?'
'Not at all, Amit.' She moved out of her chair and walked around the desk towards
Narang. 'I just want to be close to you,' she said putting her hand on his chest. She
unbuttoned the shirt and removed it. Next, she unbelted him, unzipped his trousers and
slipped them from beneath him to let them drop to his ankles. 'Let's unleash the monster
now.' She snapped the elastic of his underpants. The rutting moron raised his bottom and
took off his briefs himself.
'My turn now.'
'Yes, of course. Strip me.'
She picked up his glass and raised it to his lips before he could get up. The pig
guzzled; he wanted the drink to get over quickly for him to start uncovering his quarry.
As he revolved on his chair to look at Anita, a faint dizziness enveloped him. He
couldnt work out why a little rotation on his usual office chair would cause that. He
blinked a few times.
The last thing Amit Narang, the crowing media mogul, the CEO of NEWS of the
DAY, saw was a blurring image of Anita. And it seemed to be evanescing from his
vision, like she was being pulled back into some kind of an unlit tunnel. Then she faded
completely. The hunter slumped buck naked in his chair.
Chloral Hydrate wasn't called knockout drops for nothing.
'There could be two assailants,' Rita briefed the inspectors as they ascended. They
were passing the eighth floor now.
Another nine to go, their lungs were counting.
'Two of them?' someone asked. Rita wasn't sure whom, as she was ahead and the
panting voice from behind was hardly discernible.
'There is a possibility Jay Desai and Anita might both be there. That's the reason I
wanted four of us to go up. Four against two should be fine and ASP Rathore should be
on his way soon with enough police if we need. I didn't want everyone to travel together
on this narrow staircase, just in case...'
'What if there's no one at NEWS of the DAY office? What if they're somewhere
else?' The speculation wasn't totally unreasonable. It was nearly twenty-four hours since
Jatin had last chatted with Anita on MSN. There had been no communication post
that. There was every possibility Anita might have changed the location. If she had

known about the break-in at her safe house, she surely would have. However, it had only
been a few hours since police had stormed into her hut and there wasn't any way the
news could have got to her, particularly if she had been planning this kill. Unless No,
Rita did not wish to go into the unless scenario. She trusted Jatin. 'You have a point, but
the coincidence is too much to ignore. The location Nariman Point, as I said, has been
chosen for N; the lifts have suddenly stopped at the seventeenth floor,' she elucidated as
they passed the thirteenth floor.
Thoughts in her mind were, now, racing faster than her fatigued legs could carry her
up the stairs. Why, if Anita was the killer, had she assayed to the police that the killer
was a female? Was it that she deliberately made it so conspicuous that no one would
believe it and only look for a male? Or was it that she acknowledged that the police
would eventually get to the bottom of the pit and discover Jay Desai's nameplate, and
when they did they might discredit him from being a suspect, as they were seeking a
female?
They whisked by the fifteenth floor. 'What is her connection with Jay Desai?'
Once again Rita failed to distinguish who had spoken. The pants and gasps
crescendoed with every floor. 'Don't know. She could be his sister or half-sister.'
'But Viviane had only one child '
'That we know of, from the files,' Rita chiselled in. Sixteenth floor.
Rita looked at her watch. 9:09 p.m. They had been on the stairway for over ten
minutes now, their bodies exhausted, their legs worn out. 'Stop,' she called. 'Lets stop
for a moment. Take a few deep breaths...breathe in, breathe out. Give your body some
oxygen. It's only one floor now. As soon as we get there we split into two teams. I lead
and Inspector Mathur provides cover. Inspector Patil leads and Inspector DSouza
provides him cover.
Understood?'
More rest, though desired, wasn't affordable.
'Move,' Rita ordered and ascended the last flight of stairs.
The foursome went through the double doors and made it to the vestibule that housed
lifts on both sides and a glass entrance on the other end, which had a card reader
terminal that provided access into the office. Handguns in positions, the teams gingerly
moved. Rita marched forward, Mathur walked right behind her in reverse, his back
touching her back guarding the double doors they had just walked through. They made it
to the lifts. Rita got in. It didn't take her long to figure that someone had switched them
off with a key. She got out immediately and walked to the lift opposite. Ditto.
'Call Inspector Anand on ground floor and ask him to send a couple of people up
with the lift keys the building security should have them,' she told Mathur. 'We're
going in. Join us after you've messaged Anand.'
'Who'll cover you?' Vikram asked. 'Don't worry about me. Come on.'
Vikram withdrew the card he had been given by the building security personnel, from
his pocket, and swiped it. A faint click announced the main doors had been unlocked.
The trio walked in.

In the heightening tension of the moment, none remembered that they had locked one
of their team members outside.
The faint click the police officers heard, at the entrance of the office, was amplified in
Narang's office. Someone had entered the office. Who could it be at this hour?
'Expecting someone else, Casanova? Was I merely an appetiser?' Anita mocked the
lifeless figure of Amit Narang. 'But what would you do now? I have plucked your
dickie She picked up the remote and switched on the television that relayed images
from the main entrance. She recognised Chota Mathur. He was struggling to get in,
gesturing with his arms, like he was trying to catch someone's attention, someone who
was already inside the office. She dropped the remote, drew out the gun from her bag
and swiftly tiptoed behind the door. If the police were inside, it wouldnt be long before
they found Narangs office. But, how did they get here? This, she accepted, wasnt the
time to ponder; this was the time to act. She had to get out of this situation. She could
think of the how-they-got-here later. There was no exit from Narangs office.
She had to get out of here. Somehow.
Not aware of how many people were inside armed or otherwise Anita waited
patiently. Maybe theyd not find anything and go away. It was unlikely though. The police
must have figured out that the lifts had been sabotaged. That DCP wasnt stupid, but
where was she? Was she around? Fortunately, for Anita, the blinds were down, no one
could peep in. Like an insidious wolf, she waited. She held her breath when she heard
footsteps approaching muffled footsteps, like someone was being cautious. They
sounded like a females. So, she was here. DCP Rita Ferreira was here.
Anita could, now, sense the presence of another human on the other side of the glass
panel. She raised her gun, prepared to attack.
Rita tried looking through the gaps in the blinds. Only a desk lamp lighted Narangs
office, the soft light washing all over the room, but she couldnt detect any movement.
Maybe no one was inside, but she couldnt hazard a risk. Her gun still in hand, she gently
moved to the door and pressed the lever. It was unlocked. Should she bang the door open
to rush in or should she tenderly slip in? Why hadnt Mathur come for cover till now?
Not desirous of losing time, she pushed the door and let it slowly open.
Rita was halfway through the length of the door when she saw Inspector Chota
Mathur doing Bharatanatyam on the television. Whoever was in the office was aware of
police presence, but it was too late to draw inferences. Anita sprang from behind the
door and kicked Rita firmly behind her knee. Rita buckled momentarily, but her handgun
flew out of her hand and landed on the other side of the desk. Ritas gaze followed the
gun to grasp Narangs naked torso. She couldnt see anything below the waist since the
large desk hid it. Shit.
Welcome DCP. Anita waved her gun at Rita and kicked the door hard. It slammed
shut. She stretched her spare hand to bolt it.
What do you want?
Isnt it obvious that Ive already got what I wanted? Anita moved towards Narang's
stiff.

You cannot escape. There is a brigade outside this office, under this building.
Shut up DCP. Anita waved the gun again. I am in control, not you.
Why have you killed another innocent man? Innocent? Really?
Who are you? Anita Raizada.
I know that.
Then why do you ask?
The sound of footsteps outside revealed that the other police officers in the office
had picked up the scent of action in Narang's office.
How are you related to Viviane Casey? You are the detective. What do you think?'
Where is Jay Desai?
Dead. Anita, eyes on Rita, gun pointed towards her prey put her two fingers in the
horizontal blinds to expand the gap. Two? Just two officers? You said theres a
brigade.
Believe me. The rest will be here any minute.
You could be dead any minute too, DCP.
You wont kill me. If you killed me, how would you get away? Who said I wanted
to get away? You make too many assumptions.
Are you Jay Desais sister?
Jay Desai did not have any siblings. Havent you investigated the case thoroughly?
So youre not even related to Viviane Casey or Jay Desai? You expect me to believe
you're some vigilante who took it upon herself to kill innocent men only because they
paid for sex?
Only because? There was a knock on the door, a solid push on the lever. Ask your
guys to stop acting like children. Tell your misbehaved children to hold back, mama,
will you?
Is everything okay maam? It was Vikram's voice.
Yes, your mama is under my control inspector. If you act cute, you might need to
arrange for her coffin, you get that?
Vikramhold back.
Thats like a good girl, DCP.
Rita comprehended calling the victims innocent incited Anita. It might give her more
time to make Anita divulge what made her choose this path of destruction, to stall her
from taking any hasty decision. If you let me arrest you
Fuck off, forget it. Youre not getting me. Get upI want you to escort me to the
roof terrace.
How will you get away from there?
Though thats none of your business DCP, but if you do as I say, I promise I'll show
you how I'll get away.' Anita gave a sinful smile.
Rita stood up, dusted her clothes a bit to buy time, to think. How could she outsmart
someone with a loaded gun? Shed have to wait for an opportunity. What choices did she
have?
You walk in front of me. And tell your guys to drop their guns. I dont want to kill

you, DCP. I dont shoot women, but dont give me a reason. I dont care if I die later, but
Ill ensure Ill kill you if anyone acts cute. I am serious. Rita nodded. Now tell your
children to get out of this office. We can see that all of them get out. Anita pointed
towards the little screen.
Vikram, ask everyone to leave the premises.
And stand outside the office till further instructions, Anita yelled.
ASP Rathore arrived, with his uniformed men, in the lobby. Mathur had given up any
hope of ever getting into the office of NEWS of the DAY. He looked at ASP Rathore
unhappily. He had failed to provide cover for Rita; he had missed all the action if
there had been any. The men looked at each other.
Should we break the lock? How? asked Mathur. Shoot the damn thing.' Thatll
make a lot of noise. Who the fuck cares?
Before they could arrive at any consensus, they saw Vikram coming towards the
glass doors. He pressed the button and walked out.
Where is DCP Ferreira?
The killer has taken her hostage. We dont know the situation, but we were told to
move away.
And you left her alone?
Not much choice. Anita wanted us out, maam told us to move out too.
So what do we do?
We wait. I take command of the situation.
Vikram looked at Rathore. It was rank versus the unit. ASP Rathore was senior, but
he understood it was a case that the crime branch was in charge of. This, certainly,
wasnt the time to lock horns at any rate. This was the time to unite brains and resources
to get the DCP out and apprehend the killer who would be caught in the act. Taking DCP
captive was a grave step; something even more sinister must have provoked it.
Agreed, Rathore voiced his agreement to spell out to his team.
Walk, honey. Anita gestured towards the door. And remember, no smartness or I'll
be forced to pull the trigger.
Rita looked at her captor irately.
The duo walked out of Narangs office unhurriedly. Anita, having seen the three
police officers retreat, was still sceptical. What if any one of them had decided to stay
back? She wasnt definite how many had been in the office. Stay, she said and looked
around.
When she was sure there was no one around, she nudged Rita on her back with the
gun. Rita started marching again. Keep your hands over your head, honey.
Rita did as she was told.
They could both see a convoy of police outside in the lobby through the glass doors.
The men could observe inside too. They despised witnessing their DCP walking as a
hostage and an entire army of police rendered impotent.
Nowwould you be nice enough to tell your comrades to back off please? How?
They cant hear me.

Yes they can. Anita pointed at a receiver that hung on the wall next to the glass
doors.
Rita picked it up. It was an announcement device. It conveyed the message spoken to
the entire floor inside and out of the doors in case of any emergency. Anita knew
the office, and its mechanics in detail. Inspector Vikram Patil and ASP Rathore, please
retreat to the stairway. Leave the lobby immediately.'
Thats an order, Anita prompted. Thats an order.
Theirs was not to reason why, theirs but to do and die - the entire force
comprehended.
Rathore surreptitiously happy that someone else had taken control of the situation
that looked rather bleak now looked at Senior Inspector Vikram Patil for direction;
Vikram, either ambivalent of the ASPs intentions, or that he didnt care, signalled
everyone to leave.
The parade marched out.
Vikram walked behind everyone else. As the double doors of the stairway closed, he
kneeled to observe through the tiny slit.
Now, we move. Anita patiently waited till the last man Vikram walked out of
sight.
Same sequence: Rita, gun on her back, Anita following her. Both walked out of the
glass door. Anita, fully alert that anyone could spring out from nowhere or anywhere
on her, confidently walked behind the DCP. The two women walked into the lift car.
Anita took out the key from her pocket and started the lift.
I bet you noticed that I used the key to stop the lifts, DCP? Rita didnt utter
anything.
Anita pressed the button. UP. Roof terrace.
As the two walked out of the cast iron door Rita in front with a gun still aimed at
her Anita assayed to amend the error she had made on previous occasion. If she had
locked the double door entrance to the lobby from the stairway on the seventeenth floor,
she would have received a little more notice about the police arrival. Anita kicked the
heavy door shut.
She fleetingly peeked back to locate the latch, to fasten it. Rita sensed her captor's
distraction and standing erect in her position foxily stretched her right leg back and
brought it behind Anita's right leg, ramming her shoe forcefully into the shorter girl's
ankle. The jerk destabilised Anita, taking her by surprise. With one of her hand fastening
the door latch, the other hand lost control of the Glock, which fell only a few feet away
towards their left. Rita, conscious that the danger had been averted, strived to gain
control of the weapon. Before she could leap, Anita grabbed her hair and yanked her
backwards. Rita taller and bigger stretched her arm back and tugged on Anita's
hair. Both lost balance. Rita fell face down on the ground, inches away from the gun;
Anita fell on top of her. The arms outstretched to take the gun in possession. Anita had
the advantage of being on the top, but she was also physically smaller than her opponent.
Horizontal on the paved roof terrace, the fingers clawed on the ground, like crabs

crawling, to reach what could provide life-threatening power over the other. For Anita,
it was the looming fear of a life sentence, if not capital punishment; for Rita, she was
certain that if Anita got hold of the gun yet again, this time around she wouldnt spare
her.
Rita, her arms a little longer, got to the metal, but instantaneously found Anita's nails
digging deep between her fingers. Lord, Anita was some street-fighter. Five seconds
later, they jointly had the custody of the gun. Rita, still under bantamweight Anita,
attempted to raise herself on her elbows by pulling them forward and scratching them
against the asphalt. The blood found tiny outlets as the skin tore. She wanted to turn, to
squeeze Anita under her weight, but Anita carefully diverted the assault by letting Rita
turn, but without losing her grip on the gun, she artfully manoeuvred herself on top of
Rita, the two facing each other now.
Both clasped the gun.
Ritas advantage was a lighter opponent. Anita, on top of Rita, had gravity assisting
her. The two locked fingers around the trigger. For stark opposite purposes, Rita wanted
to avert any shooting; she wanted Anita alive, to disclose what had instigated her. Anita,
with her finger striving to pull the trigger, wanted to kill the DCP. Or herself. Now.
The womens chests heaved against each other as they fought hard to get control of
the gun they both held.
That is when Rita saw Anita closely. And it was then that it occurred to Rita what
had happened; like a flash of lightning in the sky, it was distinct, and obvious, but the
trigger got pressed.
The gunshot must have been heard on the floors below.
The recoil of the Glock unleashed the DCPs reflexes. Rita kneed Anita in the
stomach it was easy with the latter on top a few paces away. In the seconds that
ensued, Rita could feel blood oozing out of her left shoulder. Surprisingly, as in any
accident, the gun had twisted and triggered. Fortunately, for Rita, though she was
wounded, she still held the gun firmly in her right hand with Anita thrown four feet away.
DCP had regained her status. She had to make a significant effort to sit up, reclining
against the wall that cased the iron door. Now Anitanow that I have you at my mercy,
what do you have to say?
Shoot me.
That would reprieve you of your sins
Crimes. Crimes in your eyes, crimes in the eyes of law, not sins. Crimes and sins
are two different entities, DCP. Every crime is not wrong in the eyes of the Lord
Stop it. Dont talk like a preacher. You killed all those human beings for no reason.
Reason? Why does one need a reason to cleanse this world of fucking
whoremongers?
And who are you to do that?
Viviane suffered them, and it wasnt just her. It transcended a generation.
Anita ambled back gradually towards the parapet of the roof terrace; it was only four
feet tall. No one without sufficient training and appropriate gear was allowed on this

terrace there had been an occasional case of office couples making out in the open,
but that was that. There was nothing to prevent someone climbing the dwarf wall.
Stop moving, Rita burdened with the pain in her shoulder called as loud as she
could. If there was more loss of blood, she could lose consciousness, she knew. She had
to hold on till Vikram or any other police officer came through. But, how could anyone?
The latch on the terrace door had been fastened.
You will never understand that, DCP.
I think I do. I know who you are. If she hadnt been the investigating officer, the
story, the pain of a human who chose to go against the will of God would have brought a
river of tears to her eyes, but Rita decided not to empathise. Dont move back, she
growled.
And what will you do if I move, DCP? Shoot me? If required, I will.
Dont waste your bulletor should I say my bullet, cause you are holding my gun?
Whatever. Rita was wounded. She recognised she couldnt get up, but with the
Glock in her hand, she had subverted Anita. I understand
It was too late. Anita was on the parapet now. Goodbye, she said before she
became invisible to Rita.
Anita Raizada flung herself from the twentieth floor.
Rita remembered that her head hung from her shoulders, a tear dropped too, before
she aimed at the door latch and took a shot. The bullet hit the metal latch and ricocheted
to the other side. Before she collapsed, she heard the medivac helicopter in the distance.

THIRTY-ONE
2006
Jay Desai boarded the Rajdhani Express from Mumbai Central station. The next
morning, he was in Delhi where he changed trains to travel to Gorakhpur. The local bus
carried him across the border in Nepal. There were jeep-taxis available, which he hired
to take him to Kathmandu. His flight to Bangkok was a day later. He could have taken a
direct flight from Mumbai to Bangkok, but he didnt want anyone should anyone ever
look for him to trace his path. Or destination.
Jays appointment with Dr Boonsom in the latters clinic had been booked a month
prior to his arrival. He had carried all related documents, and money for his treatment.
Good morning Mr Desai.
Good morning.
Ive seen your file, spoken to you over the phone a few times, and I understand that
you are uncomfortable with your gender. It is my duty, however, to advise you to
reconsider your decision. Gender reassignment surgery is virtually irreversible...much
like crossing the Rubicon, I'm sure you understand.'
I know that. Ive checked with a specialist back in Mumbai, the psychological
evaluation has been done. I faxed the report to you last week.
Yes, Ive seen that. What about legal documentation, how would you fly back to
Mumbai on your current passport?
Ive taken that into account, the papers are being prepared as we speak, Jay lied; he
already had a counterfeit passport.
Okay.
How long would it take for me to recover?
I see from your papers that you have no intentions of waiting for a uterus donor,
which means despite become a woman, you shall never be able to bear children.
Jay Desai nodded, kept silent. After what his childhood had meant for him, he had no
desire to bring another soul into this dirty world.
The other surgical procedures gender resignation and facial feminisation can
take anything between three and four months to heal completely, but youd require some
non- surgical procedures like facial and body electrolysis. I would say you should be fit
to leave in five, maybe six months. Thats the worst-case scenario, Dr Boonsom
elucidated.
Jay Desai believed him. After all, Dr Boonsom was the one of the biggest names in
sex-change operations in the country where the largest number of such surgeries in the
world were performed. What do I need to do next?

Youve already sent us the fees, the surgery is scheduled for day-after, but Id like
you to come tomorrow morning at eight. Wed like to admit you into our care and run
some further tests.
Thanks.
The surgery, and recovery was successful.
Jay Desai kept his promise; he did not return to Mumbai. Anita Raizada did. She had
enough money to live her life normally; if ever the police looked for the killer of
Fernando, theyd look for Jay Desai. She wasnt Jay Desai anymore.
Anita had pictured a peaceful life after the surgery, a life away from crime, a clean
break from the past. But, within the first few weeks, she realised she had been horribly
wrong in her assessment. Although Jay Desai had lost interest in women, had shown
homosexual tendencies, he wasnt in any way psychologically arranged to be in a
womans body. Anita thought like a man, behaved like a man, acted like a man.
The psychological evaluation had been erroneous. The nightmares returned.
The raison dtre of her devastation wasnt merely that a man was captive in a
womans body; it lay in her past: in Vivianes exploitation, her suicide, Jays abuse by
Fernando that had rendered him a misfit to face the world.
She lay awake at nights. Crying. She spent days at her mother's grave. She couldnt
think of another surgery. In any event, she knew, she wouldnt be happy if she
metamorphosed into a man again; she never was, when she was Jay.
The demons were elsewhere. The demons couldnt be exorcised. The demons had to
die.
On her visit to Vivianes grave a month after her return, Anita promised sotto voce,
her lips quivering. You never said goodbye to me mother, but Im not saying goodbye,
just yet. I will return, this goodbye shall be in blood.
Yes, there could be a million reasons to live, but Anita Raizada chose only one,
which was an early warning sign. Any psychologist could have foreseen that if she only
had one reason to live, it would very quickly become an obsession. But, who was
looking?

----------------------------------... I Love you Rachu ...


Dear Frnds pls spread this msg until its reach to my rachu
I thinks see knows my name
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THIRTY-TWO
2007
How could so many people go so wrong? How could victory feel so bad? How could it
rain in Mumbai in September? Rita's subconscious was restless. The rational mind
consoled, even congratulated that evil had lost, the incoherent emotions, however,
overwhelmingly stymied all rejoicing. Something bothered her, besides the fact that she
was in a hospital, intubated, and on a bed, recovering from the bullet wound in her left
shoulder. Fortunately, the bullet had just grazed the collarbone; the slug had been
extracted, the gash sewn up. The morphine was working. She couldnt feel the pain. Just
a bit of numbness. Recovery would take a week, two maximum.
The physical wound, she acknowledged, would heal with time; the seismic
psychological shock might take a lifetime. How did she DCP, Crime Branch miss
the killer that she, and the entire Mumbai Police, was looking for when she had been so
close?
They the alleged experts had been wrong all along: a leopard could change its
spots, after all. It was only when Anita was on top of Rita, in the catfight on the roof
terrace, that she had noticed the latter's Adams apple. Facial feminisation surgery
seldom reduced the masculine prominence on the neck; the intent is to reduce the
extrusion by twisting the angle. Dr Boonsom had done his job diligently, but it wasnt
possible to conceal the lump entirely. It had taken less than a second for Rita to
comprehend that she was dealing with a transgender killer.
Desai.
If Anita Raizada was once a man, the only man she could have once been was Jay
The commotion outside Ritas room could only mean one thing: that the
Commissioner of Mumbai Police was in the building. Bang. Sexy was the first to visit
Rita at the hospital in the morning. To felicitate, and to display his softer side, he had
brought a bouquet too. Rita saw him at the door talking to her nurse, ensuring everything
was in order. Good morning, DCP Ferreira. He put the bouquet on the credenza near
the bed. How are you?
Fine sir.
Astonishing, who could have envisioned an androgynous serial killer?
Only Sexy could have come up with the adjective, and he was the only one permitted
to. Rita wanted to laugh, but she was sure the sutures would hurt. She wondered how
long she would be able to control a chuckle if Sexy carried on in his typical flowery
speech, peppered with obscure adjectives. Or adverbs.
Thanks for the flowers sir. Rita passed an appreciative smile.

Outstanding job, I must say. Youve shown tremendous courage, grit and adeptness
in bringing a closure to this labyrinthine case. I shall recommend you to the Chief
Minister for an award.
Thank you sir. I have only done my duty.
I think you should relax. Take a few days off.
What did he think? That she planned to go to Crawford Market straight from the
hospital? Rita acknowledged the favour granted with a smile. Thanks, sir.
Do you need anything? No sir.
If you do, dont hesitate to call me directly.
Rita hadnt realised she had fallen asleep till she heard muffled chatter at her door. She
could vaguely identify the voice, but it was impossible. She turned her head and gave a
sideways glance. What could he be doing here?
Good morning gorgeous. Ash Mattel walked in with an even bigger bouquet. What
are you doing here?
Found out about your conquest, and your injury. I had to fly in to congratulate you.
What a triumph, my girl.'
There are times you dont know if its a victory or a defeat. Was there any closure
other than Anitas suicide that fitted better? Was Rita, somehow, exculpating Anita or
Jay Desai, in her mind? There was only one person who could tell: Jim.
Take me home, she beamed and softly said as Ash bent down to kiss her on her
forehead.
***

AUTHORS NOTE
Dear reader,
No manuscript is a work of one individual. There are several people who work behind
the scenes to help an author shape it into a complete book that you have in your hands
now. It is impossible for me to thank each and every one, but there are a few without
whom this story could never have been told.
Firstly, I admit I am a huge fan of Mr James Ellroy the American crime fiction
writer of the famous LA Quartet series (LA Confidential, Black Dahlia, The Big
Nowhere, White Jazz). A serial killer murdered Mr Ellroys mother, back in 1958. The
case remains unsolved. In my opinion, the LA Quartet encapsulates what noir is. No one
ever fuelled my imagination like he has.
For details on police procedures and weapons, retired police officers in India and at
Scotland Yard helped me immensely I cannot name them for privacy issues. I have
stayed true to their advice, but I have consciously changed certain details for security
reasons. A big THANK-YOU to all of you irrespective of country you work in, it is
for men and women like you who keep us safe.
The first edit was done by Ms Sue Lacy thank you, Sue.
The subsequent and final edit was done by Mr Rahul Puri thank you very much.
I thank my publishers, Reekrit and Radhika (Rumour Books, India) for signing this
book deal with me.
Last, and certainly, not the least it is you, my dear readers, who complete the
book.
There isnt much point in writing something if no one reads it, is there? So a big
THANK- YOU to all of you.
As you can appreciate feedback is an essential part of any improvement I would like
to hear from you what you liked or disliked about Bhendi Bazaar.
With lots of love and best wishes,
VISH DHAMIJA
www.facebook.com/VishDhamija.Author
PS: As mentioned earlier in the book this is a work of fiction. Any resembles to any
person, living or dead is purely coincidental. I have taken the liberty of using names of
cities, locations, and certain establishments to provide a realistic backdrop to the story. I
promise nothing untowardly ever happened in those locations or establishments.

----------------------------------... I Love you Rachu ...


Dear Frnds pls spread this msg until its reach to my rachu
I thinks see knows my name
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