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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
As Dhruva stepped into the anteroom, he came face to face with a handsome man with an amiable face that bore the apprehensions of one who feared for the life and limb of a dear one. When the visitor introduced himself as Ranjit, the owner of Oasis Builders, assessing the middle-aged man as self-assured, Dhruva gave him a questioning look. But as Ranjit said that he came to seek his help in freeing Kavya, his thirty-six-year-old wife, kidnapped that very afternoon, Dhruva said in jest that he was not in cohorts with the kidnappers. Hiding his irritation, as Ranjit told him that his ad for a ‘lady sleuth’ had led him to the Castle Hills, Dhruva in wonder led him into the study, where Raju fetched them some steaming tea.
Ranjit said that he lived in Spandan, a bungalow in Jubilee Hills, with his well-qualified wife - L.L.B. added to M.A. in English – who remained a homemaker as he was averse to a working wife. Of late though, being barren and bored, as she turned keen on becoming a criminal lawyer, he didn’t stall her from enrolling at the Bar, and yesterday, as she chanced to see Dhruva’s ad for a ‘lady sleuth’, she felt that a stint as his ‘assistant’ would help her further her later day career. Aware though he was about the hazards such an occupation posed, as there was no way of stopping her, once she made up her mind, he had posted her application that very morning, of course, without visualizing that by the evening he had to seek the detective’s help in rescuing her from her captors! Ranjit said that he was unable to fathom the vicissitudes of fate but his predicament made Dhruva see the imponderables of life.
Ranjit said that as Kavya’s Alto was in the garage, she wanted him to send his Audi home at three-thirty to go to a friend’s place; but given his own schedule of the day, he asked her to be on her own by hiring an auto; however, when it started raining heavily by three, he tried to contact her over phone but failed to get her either on the land line or on her mobile; so he called up her friend but she told him that she too was unaware of Kavya’s whereabouts. When he rushed to Spandan, he found a ransom note slipped in through the main door that warned him not to approach the cops, but as Dhruva was fresh in his mind, he came to seek his help regardless. Ranjit pulled out the ransom note from his shirt pocket and handed it over to Dhruva, which read:
Ranjitji, be ready with three-crore rupees in thousand denominations (less luggage, more comfort, for us all) to have your wife back with you. Be at the Tanesha statue on the Tank Bund from four to six tomorrow evening in dark trousers and a white shirt to convey your consent. You have only four days to exchange your black money with your brillinat wife; be at the Tanesha between five and eight in the evening (mind the dress code) to take further instructions. Beware of involving the khakis as that would only fetch you your wife’s body bag; it’s no empty threat as you have her testimony hereunder. Be warned, if you carry any mobile phone with you, we will take the booty as well as your wife over your dead body.
When Ranjit confirmed that it was indeed Kavya’s signature, as Dhruva secured the note and said that he would like to alert the cops, Ranjit told him sarcastically that instead of coming to Castle Hills, he himself could have gone to the Jubilee Hills Police Station. But as Dhruva maintained gravely that he saw a case to apprehend him as the prime suspect in his wife’s kidnap, Ranjit lost his cool and demanded an explanation from him. Dhruva said that since there was no way Ranjit could have received the ransom note with Kavya’s signature on it, within an hour or so after her alleged kidnap, he should be put under the scanner. Pleased with Dhruva’s eye for detail, Ranjit confessed that as he was preoccupied with his work, he could not contact Kavya all day but found the note only when he returned home in the evening, and added that he just tried to test the waters before he entrusted the case to Dhruva.
As though to outsmart Ranjit, Dhruva turned naughty and said that since Kavya’s signature on the ransom note was genuine, it indeed was good news; but as Ranjit seemed lost at the comment, lest he should take him as a cynic, Dhruva explained that if it were forgery, it would have meant that the captors were out to barter her body for the booty. Ranjit, who remained apprehensive, said what if Kavya was bumped off after having obtained her signature, but Dhruva had assured him that the kidnappers were no morons to harm her as Ranjit wouldn’t part with a farthing until he had ensured that she was kicking and alive. However, as Ranjit expressed his fears about his wife’s possible molestation in captivity, Dhruva assured him that when a man kidnapped a woman for ransom, his lure for money would act as her chastity belt. Moreover, as the handwriting in the ransom note betrayed a feminine slant, the captor was either a woman or a male with a female accomplice, possibly a lover; if it were a woman who had kidnapped his wife, then there should be no violation save a lesbian aberration, and were it to be a man-woman enterprise, then the male enthusiasm for Kavya’s possession had to contend with the proclivity of his female accomplice to stall the same; whatever, the idea of the kidnap was to collect ransom from the man and not to molest his wife.
When Dhruva wanted to know his take on the ransom, Ranjit said that he came to seek his help as he did not have so much money, which prompted Dhruva to say in jest that he was no moneylender; but as Ranjit offered to pay him a million rupees for his services, Dhruva said that it might come in handy as and when he handled the cases of the ‘hand to mouths’. Ranjit offered to take Dhruva to Spandan, but in an auto for he made it to the Castle Hills by changing into a couple of them via a circuitous route. Patting Ranjit for his presence of mind, Dhruva led him to his Esteem, and on their way to the Jubilee Hills in the snarling traffic, Ranjit narrated his life and times with his wife.
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