Team: Maximus Dramaticus
Read the previous part of the story here
The air on the first floor of the house in Chuna Mandi was pregnant with the sort of tension that you could actually cut with a knife. Jennifer sat in one corner peering into the eyepiece of her camera and pretending she was composing a shot… but she did not click even once. Cyrus sat in front of his laptop and just stared at the screen that showed the desktop. Roohi sulked with her art note-book to the left of Jennifer. Aryan stood in the doorway leading to the open space and had his back to the people in the room. He was probably looking at the bedroom in which Cyrus had been discovering decapitated bitches that always managed to vanish the next morning. Tara sat in the doorway that opened into the creaky balcony and looked out and beyond the meaningless chaos of the market below. It was nearing evening and getting colder…but not yet darker.
Cyrus wondered aloud, ‘You’ve been here for almost four days now, Tara. So much has happened and so much seems hazy. It is Friday and I’m now really afraid of that dreaded ninth Monday.’ He had those pieces of paper in front of him arranged the way Tara had done just four days back.
Not once | nor twice | nine times | we’ll kill
A bitch | always | but ninth | will fill
Mysteries have this uncanny way of suggesting a way to the solution when they wish it and never otherwise. We humans are inexorably entangled into mysterious meshes and are constantly running around in search of answers even though destiny may have placed them right under our noses. This is what existence is all about… mortal existence. It was Aryan thinking in these abstract terms as he was so fond of. Mysteries fascinated him just as words would fascinate a writer. He had already been fed bits of information by everyone and was eagerly waiting, like everyone else, for Shekhar to come.
Shekhar had been discharged from the hospital and though Tara wanted to be with him it was he who told her not to come to the hospital. ‘I have some unfinished work,’ he had said, ‘and I’ll join you all at our Chuna Mandi house by evening.’
Tara got up from where she sat, turned, and looking at what Cyrus had done, said, ‘You’re forgetting the line that had suggested.’ ‘No, I’m not,’ said Cyrus and quickly took out the paper where she had scribbled the hypothetical last line:
You with a dread that’ll make you still!
The three lines did make a rather treacherous stanza with a lilting rhyme. Tara read the lines in a low voice and said, ‘Poetry is so much like life. With every musical moment come unexpected upheavals. Why do treachery and beauty always walk hand in hand?’ She didn’t wait for an answer but turned to Aryan and asked, ‘You’ve been pensive since that last call. I suggest you share with us as we are all in this mystery laden house together, aren’t we?’ Aryan looked at her and nodded, but said, ‘Just wait for some more time. I want Shekhar to be here first.’
Someone has rightly said that when a storm comes it lashes out with a might that can unnerve the faint-hearted. There was a loud ‘Hullo, I’m back!’ from the street and as it sounded like Shekhar’s voice, Tara said, ‘He’s here!’ They could hear his heavy footsteps as he struggled up the narrow and crumbling staircase. As he entered the room, he stopped dead in his tracks. A medium sized stone had gone whizzing past his left ear and struck Aryan on his chest. A small bright red coloured spot became immediately visible through the stone-dirt that soiled the front of his shirt.
‘You’re hurt!’ shouted Jennifer as she immediately got up and opened her large handbag to take out a little tube. ‘I have some antiseptic. Let me apply it on the wound.’
It was Roohi who noticed that the stone had a paper attached to it by a few rubber-bands. She said, ‘A mystery message for you, Aryan uncle!’
‘Aryan uncle has entered our mystery house with mystery messages and mystery calls,’ said Tara with a smile. As if this was the cue he was waiting for, Aryan said, ‘The message was rather grim. I was reluctant to talk about it because it was from an unknown number, an unknown person and made no sense to my mind.’
Tara waited with a questioning look.
‘Some husky female voice just said ‘Dutta’s finished’ and disconnected,’ said Aryan, a trifle distraught.
There was silence for a moment and then Tara realised that the message wrapped on the stone was still unread. She asked Roohi to hand her that stone, quickly unwrapped the message and stood there reading until Jennifer notice the tremor in her legs and moved just in time to catch her as she fell unconscious.
There was an immediate rush of a lot of things happening… with Roohi running to fetch a glass of cold water, Jennifer managing a pillow to be kept under Tara’s head, and the three men helping to pick her up from the floor where she had collapsed and gently putting her on a mattress that Cyrus had run out and brought from the bedroom. It didn’t take long for Tara to recover… and that was when everyone suddenly remembered why she had fainted.
The message wrapped on the stone! Tara was not a weak person, but what she had read was enough to make her feel totally bombed out. The paper simply said that Shekhar had been a drug dealer in his past and that he was involved with a number of crimes that could put him and his family permanently out of the radiant lifestyle they seemed to be enjoying.
Tara turned to Shekhar and asked, ‘What is all this?’
Shekhar asked everyone to sit on the floor and slowly told them all about his sordid past. The truth about Percival and that fact that Paresh was Percival and that he was and still is into drug dealing. The truth about Seema being Samantha and how she was intent upon controlling trafficking girls for prostitution also came out that cold evening when Jennifer, Cyrus, and Aryan too joined in with their bits. It is said that cold is just a state of mind and that the body perceives it when hit by loneliness and when he has been left to fend for himself. But even biting cold recedes into a shudder when the warmth of shared thoughts stands up to face it.
This is precisely what happened in that room that cold and now dark evening. The doors were open and a freezing wind came in unhindered, went around trying to bully mortals but then just stood like a frozen mannequin wondering at the strength of human bonding. Shekhar also told them of the plan they were hatching to get this house at a throwaway price and that removing Cyrus from the scene and away from Delhi was also a part of the plan. ‘But now all this may not be necessary. This was all being hatched by Percival to let my hidden past remain hidden. But thanks to Samantha, we’re in the clear.’
That cold and dark evening all of them poured their heart out and Cyrus, in his already bench-marked poetic style, said, ‘Listen to your mind but follow your heart.’
Tara was about to ask what he meant when she suddenly smiled and said, ‘I agree. The mind does take you on a wild goose chase but any tale would end on a good note when hearts choose to communicate.’
It seemed to all that the bogey of massacred bitches and all the syllabic clues finally seemed to be sorted. Cyrus happily hummed, ‘And now to myself I’ll have a Monday / But I’ll do my law here and here I’ll stay.’
‘Yes, now you can,’ said Shekhar, ‘but not here. This place is just a den where bad things happen. Go away from here and stay away from these people.’
Food was ordered from a nearby dhaba and everyone was already planning to get back to their routine… wait, did I just say everyone? You know, as I said earlier, destiny doesn’t let you get out of a mystery unless it really wishes so. Well then, no one noticed much in Jennifer excuse herself to go out. ‘Ah! All that tension. The poor girl wants a smoke badly now,’ laughed Tara.
Jennifer smiled and went out and walked carefully behind the building to an old fashioned door that also had a brass knocker. This was the entrance to the godown on the ground floor of the house that belonged to Tara and Shekhar and which had narcotics carefully hidden in ceramic sanitary ware. This godown pretended to be stocking sanitary ware and all else that plumbers generally need.
Jennifer muttered, ‘It is only Friday night and Monday is still far away, Cyrus.’ She then knocked twice, stopped and knocked twice again. The door creaked open and a female voice belligerently enquired, ‘Now what do you want?’ Jennifer pushed her in, shut the door with her right foot and opening her handbag took out a razor. In a cold impersonal tone she said, ‘My paintbrush is a razor, dear.’
Samantha, with her clothes in disarray and lipstick smeared in a rather sensual way stood in silence for a few moments before she spluttered, ‘Don J! You’re Don J?’ From somewhere in the darkened room, Lallan said, ‘Oh My God!’
This brings us to the final segment of Week 2
Read the next part of the story from Week 3, here
26 September 2014