Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Final Adieu - Part 7


Day 2, 02:30 pm

Sagar waited for Asheeta to stop crying. Whatever information he wanted to know, he needed Asheeta's full attention while interrogating her. It took some time for Asheeta to regain her composure. Once she stopped crying, Sagar began questioning her. Yamuna was observing both of them intently.


"Ash, I need you to tell me something that would help us find the real Kathir"


"Yes, tell me"


"Um, the other day you told me you share your story draft with Jacob for reviewing right"


"Yea..."


"Do you share the draft with anyone else, other than Jacob?"


"Oh yeah, one of my friends at office"


"Anyone else?"


"Um, no"


"OK, can you share the draft with me? I need to take a look at it"


Asheeta looked confused, but without uttering a word she opened the folder in her laptop where she had stored her draft. The folder contained a list of word documents, each dedicated to each episode of her story. Sagar opened the document having the ninth episode and read it.


Just then Sagar received a call in his mobile. He spoke for a few minutes and disconnected the call. He then turned to Asheeta.


"Um, what is that friend's name?"


"Naresh"


"Where does he stay?"


"An apartment for rent at T.Nagar"


"Uh, fine, I need to go now. I will try to come back in an hour or so"


"What is all this about Sagy?"


"Um, nothing, just a routine check. I will let you know once I am back"


He then turned to Yamuna and asked if she would also like to join. Yamuna threw a stare that stated it was obvious that she would come along. Before leaving the house, Sagar did something he had never done before. He went near the door, and then he came back and kissed Asheeta on her forehead gently and left.


Asheeta was standing for a while unable to believe what just happened. She felt the wetness on her forehead and it felt good. A smile automatically crept on her lips. She locked her house and started listening to her favorite tracks on her ipod.

***************************

"Do you think it is Naresh?" Yamuna asked in a curious voice.

"I don't think so. I know it" Sagar replied and handed over the mail printout to her.


"This is the mail I received yesterday. Just read it once"


Yamuna read the mail and looked at Sagar confused.


"OK. Now what?" Yamuna asked.


"Just check the spelling of the word 'Humor' in the mail. It is the American spelling, right?"


"So?"


"In the blog, Asheeta had used the British spelling 'Humour'"


"What are trying to imply?"


"In the draft, she had used the American spelling. But while posting the story, she had changed it to the British spelling..."


"...which implies the serial killer took the mail from Asheeta's draft and not blog" Yamuna completed with her eyes wide.


"Exactly! From the beginning, we were under the assumption that the real Kathir was someone from WW. But we had been wrong"


"Hmm, by the way, what was the call you received few minutes back?"


"We had sought cyber crime office to assist us in tracking the mail id sent to me. We just got the location of the sender"


"Let me guess, somewhere at T.nagar?"


"Absolutely"


"The case is now cleared I guess"


"Except for the fact that we must find Sabitha"


"And hopefully Naresh should be at home"


The rest of the journey continued in silence, each immersed deep in their own thoughts.


***************************


Asheeta was listening to the song 'Nenjukkul peidhidum maamazhai' from the movie 'Varanam Aayiram ' when she heard the calling bell ring. She peeped through the key hole to check who it was, but she could not find anyone. So she just opened the door. She found Naresh standing near a window and peeping in.


"Naresh..." Asheeta almost screamed.


Naresh spun around immediately.


"What the f**k are you doing Ash? I have been ringing the bell for more than 5 minutes. I was sure you were home as the door was locked inside. So I just checked through the window if I could find you" Naresh grinned.


"Oh, I was listening to songs in my ipod. So may be I did not hear. I just now heard the calling bell. Sorry yaar"


"Hey no problem. By the way, won't you call me inside?"


"Oh yeah sure, come in"


Naresh went in and took a look around the house. He made sure that no one was inside.


"What Naresh, you are acting as if this is the first time you are coming here?"


"Hey no, it looked like something has changed in the house. So I was just checking"


"The house hasn't changed anything, only I have" Asheeta said in a dull voice.


"Hey, even I was thinking on the same lines. You look awful. What happened?"


"I will tell you sometime later Naresh. Actually it is so nice of you to drop in. Are you busy with something else?"


"No, I just dropped in to have a chit-chat"


"Thank God! I really need a company now, someone to divert my mind"


"Anything serious, Ash?"


"I don't feel like discussing it yet. Just talk about something else"


At that instant Asheeta realized that there was something different about Naresh. First of all, he had never visited her without prior informing. Second, he looked very tensed and nervous. Third, he had never before addressed her as Ash.


Naresh was staring at Asheeta for a while. He was occupied by a zillion thoughts. He knew he had very less time and had to make the move soon.


"Um, why not we talk about your serial story?" Naresh asked and immediately bit his lips. He knew this was not the best time to talk about her story. He wanted to do things he had rehearsed million times, yet at this close proximity, he could not do anything.


"Oh Naresh, let us not talk about the story now. This is not the best time" Asheeta said in a low voice. She again remembered the woman's death and her body shuddered involuntarily.


"Hey Ash, it is your story. An author should not be afraid of her own story" Naresh said and laughed at his own joke. But then he saw the look on Asheeta's face and changed his tone.


"Oh come on Ash, I came here to have some fun, but you are spoiling my mood" he said in a complaining voice.


"Alright, tell me, what do you want to know"


"You told me about the possible climax you have thought for your story right. Have you changed your idea or is it still the same?"


But in his mind, he was screaming What are you doing Naresh, come on, don't loose the chance. Get her now


"Yeah, same, kill his beloved and bid his final adieu to the World" Asheeta replied in a dry voice.


***************************


Sagar and Yamuna had reached the apartment in half an hour. They rang the calling bell, which was answered by a tall, lean man.


"I am Sagar, ACP. Does someone called Naresh stay here?"


"Oh yeah, he is my friend. At present he has gone out" the man replied in a shaken voice. It was evident he had not expected a police at that hour.


"What is your name?"


"Vikash. May I know what this is about?"


"Yeah, I will tell you. Mind if we come in?"


Vikash glanced at both of them for a moment and asked Sagar to show his id card. Once Sagar showed it, Vikash seemed convinced and prompted them to enter the house.


It was a small two bed room apartment with a kitchen and a bathroom.


Sagar checked the house and continued "Which is Naresh's bed room?"


"Um, the one on the right"


Sagar moved towards the room, but was blocked by Vikash. Sagar considered pushing Vikash away for an instant. Vikash was too lean and Sagar knew that Vikash would not stand even a single blow from him. But he restrained himself and continued


"I am not in the mood of dueling with you. Just let me in"


"Do you have a warrant?"


Sagar glared at him for a while.


"It wouldn't take me a second before pushing you away, but I want to give you some respect. Now if you don't mind, can you please move?"


Vikash just stared at Sagar, and then gave in.


"Naresh had never allowed me to enter his room. He always locked it. I don't have the keys"


"I don't need a key" Sagar said in a dismissive tone.


Sagar took out something that resembled an electronic device from his pocket. He inserted one of the sharp edges of the device in the lock and twisted for a while in all possible directions. In a couple of seconds, they heard a click and the lock opened.


"Oh, they teach you this too in your training?" Yamuna asked surprised.


Sagar just ignored her remark and went in. The sight that he saw totally caught him off guard. Yamuna followed him, whereas Vikash was standing outside.


"Oh my, what is this?" Yamuna asked glancing around the room.


"Obsession" Sagar replied.


Sagar saw a laptop on a study table next to the bed. He switched on the laptop.


"Don't you need a password?"


"I have a hunch" Sagar said and typed a password. The system dutifully accepted and logged him in.


"Was the password Asheeta?" Yamuna asked.


"May be you could join our branch, you seem to pick up things pretty fast"


"Yeah, as if..." Yamuna smirked but did not complete what she intended to say.


Sagar went through several folders in the system. He was not sure which folder contained vital information.


"I think you should just search for folder names like 'Asheeta'. It will save you some time"


Sagar agreed and did the same. It returned hundreds of folders with her name.


"Try something like 'The Final Adieu'" Yamuna said.


This time the system returned just a single folder. It contained all the drafts of Asheeta's story. There was also a separate document which contained just the mail Sagar had received.


"I think the evidence is overwhelming. Why don't we just get him?" Yamuna asked


"I was just checking if we can get some clues on Sabitha's location"


"Once we get him, can't you make him tell?"


"Fine, let’s go and get him"


Sagar closed the laptop and went out. He moved swiftly towards Vikash and pushed him inside the room.


"Just look around, this is exactly what he did not want you to see"


Vikash looked around. Asheeta was smiling in various photos all around the room.


***************************


"Hey Ash, can I use the restroom?"


"Oh yeah sure"


Naresh went inside leaving Asheeta staring at him. She could feel something wrong about him but could not identify what it was. Her thought was suddenly interrupted by her mobile. She picked it up and checked who was calling. It was Sagar.


"Hey Sagy, where are you?"


"Ash, listen to me carefully. Don't answer any call other than mine. Lock the door and stay safe. Don't open unless it is me. Do this without asking me any further questions. Is that clear?"


"Whoa whoa, slow down. I am totally lost. What is the problem?"


Asheeta heard a long sigh at the other end. Then Sagar continued


"OK listen. We have identified the real Kathir. It is none other than Naresh"


"What...What do you mean?"


"Yes Ash, just stay safe and follow my instructions. I will get back to you in a while. OK?"


Exactly at that instant Asheeta felt a strong sensation pierce at her back. She realized Naresh was staring at her from behind. Asheeta wanted to somehow convey to Sagar that Naresh was in her house. But she realized she could not do so without alarming Naresh.


Asheeta felt a chill spread through her spine. She did not have the nerve to turn around and look at Naresh. She was still holding her mobile and was debating within herself what to do next. Sagar was still on the call waiting for her response.


"Ash, Ash, are you there?"


Asheeta's heart raced thinking all kind of possibilities for an escape. Finally when she noted she had none, she managed to say a 'Bye' and disconnected the call.


Slowly she turned around. Naresh was staring at her with a knife in his hand.


Asheeta was stunned to silence. By reflex she moved back and looked at Naresh terror stricken.


"Hey Ash, what happened?"


"Noth...Nothing. What are you doing with a knife?"


"Oh, never mind that, I saw an apple in the kitchen and thought of eating one."


Naresh showed the apple he was having in his other hand. He then slowly started slicing the apple, but his full attention was on Asheeta. Asheeta was staring at Naresh dumbstruck. With each cut Naresh sliced on the apple, Asheeta felt her flesh being cut.


Asheeta remembered how a great friend Naresh had been. On her first few days at office, it was Naresh who helped her familiarizing with her job. He was always praising her and was always with her. Asheeta had shared all her personal issues with Naresh, including her parent’s death. She had never been that intimate with anyone else.


Many times she felt Naresh touch her at improper places which looked like an accident. But later she dismissed her thoughts and convinced herself that it was indeed an accident. But she did have doubts if he loved her. That was because Naresh never moved that close with anyone else. Slowly she felt all the pieces fall together. Naresh had never shared his childhood memories with her. Even if she initiated a conversation about his parents, Naresh would tactfully divert the topic.


What if Naresh had had a bad childhood?


What if he connected himself with Kathir?


What if he loved me?


What if he decides to make my story climax come true?


With these thoughts in mind, she blurted out something, even before she could consider what she wanted to say.


"I want to change my story climax"


Naresh stopped cutting the apple and looked at her intently.


"What?"


"Yeah, I want to...um...change it to...um....something like....you know..."


Asheeta could not come up with any possible alternative. Her heart was throbbing fast and she could not think. Just then to her relief someone rang the calling bell.


"Wait, I will check who it is" Naresh waved her to sit back and went out.


He peeped through the key hole, but could not find anyone. He turned back at Asheeta and shrugged his shoulders.


"Are you expecting someone?"


"Um, yeah, uh...my friend" Asheeta said hoping it must be Sagar.


Naresh opened the door and stepped out. The next moment he found someone punch him hard on his face. Naresh fell down unconscious.


***************************


"Yes! Naresh was captured by my men, Yamuna. I am relieved now" Sagar said in an excited voice.


"But how did you know he was at Asheeta's house?"


"I just..."


"Cut the hunch crap and give me a logical reason" Yamuna interrupted.


Sagar smiled and continued "Asheeta sounded very distressed. Though you call it a crap, it was really my hunch"


Yamuna smiled and Sagar noted that Yamuna looked even more beautiful when she smiled.


"Why don't you smile more often?"


"Men made me so. It has been ages since I smiled. You are the first man who made me smile"


Sagar looked at Yamuna closely. He did not want to cultivate any false hopes in Yamuna.


"You know, after we recover Sabitha, I am planning to propose to Asheeta"


"Did you actually think I would fall for you?" Yamuna asked in a sarcastic tone.


Sagar looked at her alarmed. This is a woman who could read other's mind. I should be careful with her he told himself
.

"No, I was just informing you, as a friend" Sagar smiled sheepishly.


"Actually you are good at everything and I really admire you for that. But you don't know how to bluff. You need to work on that"


Sagar decided it was better if he just shut his mouth.


They reached the police station in an hour. Sagar went to the cell where Naresh was held captive. Just then he received a call.


"Hello, Sagar speaking"


"Hello, we are calling from cyber crime. I called you sometime back about the mail id you received, remember?"


"Yes, of course!"


"Yeah, and you had also given us another id to track 'goldie.in4u@gmail.com' right?"


"Yes"


"Well, the sender of that id seems to be more sophisticated. He had routed the mail through several proxy servers across the globe. So, I called to inform you that it would take some more time"


"Wait! You mean, the senders of both the mail ids are different?"


"Yeah, I mean, you knew that right? You had given two ids"


Sagar realized that the speaker had no idea that they were dealing with one man. Sagar had assumed that the both the ids would lead to the same man. But at cyber crime, they had assumed that both the ids were of two different people. And it seemed the cyber crime people were right.


Sagar disconnected the call and went inside the cell. As he had expected, Naresh was not the one who kidnapped Sabitha right before him.


***************************

Day 2, 06:30 pm


Sabitha was lying on the floor. She tried to open her eyes, but found it too difficult. Her head felt very heavy. She tried to remember where she was, but she could not remember anything. Suddenly she heard foot steps nearing her.


Sabitha tried to sit but her whole body was aching, and she could not move an inch. She felt a hand caress her body. She tried to push the hand, but she was too weak for the move. The hand then moved to her face and pulled her forward.


"I will be leaving you for a while. But don't worry baby, I am going to bring you a company" a husky voice whispered in her ears.

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