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

Chapter 7
Operation Checkmate

It was 4 P.M the D-day. As Dhruva was raring to go, Rani was in no hurry to desert her dressing table; but when he began hurrying her, as she hastened down the stairs, she slipped on the staircase. Though she said that she was fine, yet he drove her to the Hyderabad Nursing Home, where the doctor ruled out a fracture, but ignoring Rani’s pleas to be taken on board, he sent her home with Raju, who came in tow with them.

Walking up to the nearby Tank Bund, Dhruva soon reached the Siddhendrayogi statue, and seeing the white Maruti Zen in the parking bay, he realized that the game was on though there was none to be seen around. But even before he could settle down on the lawns aside the majestic statue, Ranjit drove his Audi into the same parking bay. Alighting from his car with two bulging travel bags, a visibly nervous Ranjit passed by Dhruva towards the nearby Tanesha statue. Soon, beginning in trickles, as people started flocking to the place to occupy vantage points on the sprawling lawns as well as on the tank-side benches, as if on cue, a handful of fast food vendors descended upon the scene to spread all over; even as they were trying to induce those present to have a bite, the toy-wallahs, who followed them, did not lag behind in tempting the kids with fancy playthings.

When a fast food vendor, apparently in disguise, posited his chaat basket near the Tanesha statue, seeing him ill at ease in the calling, Dhruva knew that he was indeed the one to be marked. As the sun began to set on the Hussainsagar Lake, the vendor went up to Ranjit, and preparing some chaat for him, he began to chitchat with him; soon, handing over the stuff in a paper-plate to Ranjit, the imposter, on the sly, passed on his mobile to him. With a satisfied look on his face as Ranjit unzipped both the travel bags, elated, the guy took away the mobile from him and having connected it to someone; he gave it back to Ranjit, who seemed relieved as he held it to his ear. As Ranjit tended to hold on to it, the guy withdrew it from him and waited in the wings without taking his eyes off him; and when it got a little darker, he signaled to Ranjit to go down the staircase in the backside that led to the road below. When Ranjit picked up the bags and ventured into the vault of that staircase, the guy called someone on his mobile; soon abandoning his wares as is where, as he too followed suit, Dhruva reached for his mobile.

Shortly thereafter, covering her face with her pallu, as a young woman emerged from the staircase and walked towards the Maruti Zen, discerning excitement in her nervous gait, Dhruva knew that she was the accomplice of Kavya’s captor. As arraigning her was not part of the Operation Checkmate, he let her drive away in the car; moreover, without espying her visage, yet he had experienced an unusual empathy for her. Soon, as Ranjit too passed him by with Kavya, his eyes followed her all the way to the Audi; what with her glowing persona and pleasing poise, even in that dull setting, appealed to his romanticism, he could not help but divine her provocative figure in her evocative gait; and finding her enchanting in her state of confusion he began wondering how enticing she could be in the moments of her excitation. So, when Shakeel called him to inform him about the capture of the kidnapper, he was still under the mesmeric spell of Kavya’s unusual charms that he had earlier visualized from her photographs. However, it was the breaking news from Shakeel that the culprit turned out to be Pravar that diverted his mind to the mysterious Radha, the suspected murderess.

Amazed though at the development, Dhruva, turning business-like, wanted Shakeel to send someone to pick up Pravar’s chaat basket, whatever be its forensic worth; and waiting for a constable to come to pick up the thing, he called up Rani to enquire about the state of her ‘leggy self’. Learning that she was jumping like a jack and was eager for the news, as he apprised her of the developments at the Tank Bund, she blamed with him for having deprived her thrill of participation; and having cajoled her, he said in half jest that he hoped she would not hold it against him to deny him the thrill of their nocturnal adventure.    


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