Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
Author: BS Murthy

Chapter 4
Rags to Riches

Kavya, a child prodigy, was the only offspring of a financially hard-pressed couple from Kovvur. As her parents went to lengths to groom her well, she began to live up to their expectations, and that prompted them to shift to Hyderabad to cater to her big-ticket talent. While her father became a clerk in a real estate firm, her mother took to cooking for a ‘working women’s hostel’, she strained her every nerve to top the school. But coinciding with her entry into the college, her father ventured into the real estate business, which by the time of her graduation in arts, grew into Oasis Builders. 

Soon her parents made her marriage their dining table-talk; her mother, wanting her daughter to have a better start than she herself had, was bent upon a well-heeled groom but her father, still smarting from the snubs of his poor-groom days, vowed to give her hand to a ‘nobody’, who showed promise to become somebody. Un-enamored of riches, as Kavya sided with her father, he soon zeroed in on Ranjit, and bowled by his looks, she batted for him against her mother’s objections. However, in deference to her mother’s wishes, she married Ranjit in the precincts of Lord Balaji, at Tirupathi, but sadly, in the return journey, as her parents were killed in a road mishap, the Oasis Builders too landed in the groom’s lap.

By the time Ranjit finished the recap of his life and times with Kavya, as they reached Road No 69 leading up to Spandan, Dhruva brought the Esteem to a halt at the street corner.   Letting Ranjit walk down the desolate road, Dhruva stayed back to ensure that none followed him, however wanting to be alerted on the mobile just in case. Soon Dhruva too made it to Spandan, but before entering the compound, he focused his torch on the road nearby but once in, closing the gate behind them, he scanned the rain-drenched lawn and said that Kavya had left home when it was still raining, and might have unwittingly hired an auto-rickshaw, lying in wait for her.

Stepping into Spandan proper and having scanned the insides, Dhruva asked Ranjit for a picture of Kavya, and when he was given her photo album, struck by her stunning looks, he felt that her photogenic features could be the indices of her stunning persona. While trying to envision the poise of the vivacious woman, who would have become his assistant in the normal course, Dhruva wondered whether her kidnapping would be the loss of his lifetime. When the impropriety of holding on to the album dawned on Dhruva, he handed it back to Ranjit with the assurance that she would be back in her husband’s arms before he started missing her.

Soon, after revealing the opening moves of the Operation Checkmate to set Kavya free from her kidnappers, Dhruva left Spandan, and even as he got into his Esteem, he called up Shakeel, on his mobile, wanting him to set the informers behind the usual suspects. However, as the latter broached the topic of nailing Radha, recalling the mysterious trespasser, Dhruva wondered if the temptress was indeed Radha and whether she would venture again back to 9, Castle Hills. When Shakeel insisted to know about his plans to unravel her mystery, Dhruva said that the clue about her whereabouts might as well lie in her destiny. 

Back home, after a quick shower, with his favorite Old Monk with Thums Up for company, Dhruva began working on various moves of the endgame, and soon succeeded in affecting a mental checkmate of her captors. However, the thought that Kavya might not have any stomach left for the risky endeavors of a sleuth made him feel like he was back to square one in his quest for a capable hand. After an unappetizing dinner as he retired to bed thinking about both the women in the same vein, he wondered if the woman ‘at the gate’ was indeed Radha, and felt that it was difficult to imagine her as a murderess. He thought what if Shakeel had showed him her photograph that Pravar gave him, and wondered why he failed to ask for it himself? Maybe Radha could be a seductress to rival Mithya, and he thought in the same vein, what of Kavya, a rare beauty, well, could there be temptresses like her! Besides, won’t Kavya be an invaluable asset even if she were half as cerebral as her husband pictured her?  Would she like to join him after all? When it suits him to have either Kavya or Radha to assist him, what bonus it could be if both of them join him. Won’t it be real fun with both of them around but given the attendant jealousies, it could as well be a hard grind for him.

What with the myriad thoughts about them storming his head; he had a disturbed sleep that night.


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