The Spellbinders – Chapter 20: Tit For Tat

We are a team called The Spellbinders. We are collaborating and writing a story for the Blogadda challenge “Game of Blogs“. The experience of working together with 9 other bloggers, sharing ideas and crafting a story fit for a novel is absolutely delightful and satisfying, at the same time. To know about us, join us here.

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This chapter ends Round 2 of the contest and our story has spanned across different frontiers, with some bizarre twists and turns, and several highs and lows in the lives of the characters.

The story so far:

Chapter1 – Room No 4
Chapter 2– Table No 4
Chapter 3– If Looks could Kill
Chapter 4– The Flower That Never Bloomed
Chapter 5 – The Elephant Parade
Chapter 6 – Chance Encounters and Changed Plans
Chapter 7 – Relationships
Chapter 8– When Dreams Come True
Chapter 9 – Runaway Brat
Chapter 10 – Where is Roohi ?
Chapter 11 -The Investigation
Chapter 12 -The Backstabber
Chapter 13– Breaking Bad
Chapter 14 – Mixed Feelings
Chapter 15– Broken Dreams, Sleepless Nights
Chapter 16– Get Shekhar Out On bail
Chapter 17– The Dungeon
Chapter 18– The Shadows Gather
Chapter 19– The Rising Moon

CHAPTER 20:  TIT FOR TAT

Tara got out of her flat, hailed a cab and took it to the hospital. Shekhar was sitting in the hall sketching.  It was Roohi’s face.  A sob ripped out of her heart.  Shekhar looked up startled, his sketches and crayons fell around him.

“Sorry,” he said.  “You scared me.  Did not expect …”

Tara said, “It is okay.”

Shekhar looked away, “The doctor wants me to draw.  Can’t think of anyone to draw but Roohi.”

She wept.  He looked at her with a strange smile, “Come with me … somewhere alone?”

She nodded, incapable of speech.  He took her to a balcony and sat down on a plastic bench, patting the space on his side.  She sat down next to him.  “You know I am the first son of the first son many times over – the direct line of sage Atri or Atreya, right?”

She nodded, “Dattatreya, yes,” she said.

“At puberty, rituals were done to give me the ancient seat of power.  My father was a strange man, ahead of times.  He got psychological and medical tests too.  Doctors said I was incapable of having children.  And then …”, he paused and cleared his throat.  “My mother and I were sworn to secrecy.  The community wants a son.”

She gasped and he put out a hand to stop her from speaking, “Your baby was my hope.  If you had a son, the line would not die with me.  Your son could have  ..”  He began sobbing, desperate sobs of a man in grief.  “I was disappointed.  I lived in hope for nine months.  Now the whole line is dead, because of me.”

“You knew, all this time,” she whispered.

“I did not hate Roohi.  It is just that every time I saw her, I hated myself,” he said.

Tara shook him hard, so hard that his neck nearly snapped.  “You asshole!  You think you killed her?”

“No I don’t.  Not now.  The doctor here said I nearly convinced myself in a state of shock.  Some medical term … dissociative something that I forget.  Now I know I did not,” Shekhar said.

“Well then, get up.  Control yourself.  You and I have to get my little girl back.”

He said, “You want me to?”

“You are my husband and her father to the whole world,” she said.  “To me too.”

He wept.  But this time he was not alone.  She put her arms around him and wept with him.

***

Malik looked at his watch. It was about to be 5 am. The sky behind the hospital was coloured in dull orange and red hues. Ominous times, thought Malik. He wondered whether Tara was at home or still occupied with work. His mind was filled with suspicion about Tara and Cyrus being together now. He thought they had some sleazy relationship since he saw them outside Nanavati & Nanavati.

The young man Aryan Ahuja had been very informative.  His instincts were right when he decided to use Aryan as his trump card in his investigation of the serial killings. Somehow, he felt these bizarre killings were not normal murders – they occurred on moonless nights, the victims were little 9 year-old girls and the gash marks made by knife blades on the victims’ mutilated bodies made him sick. After reading Aryan’s research, he unwillingly believed that this was some freak horror show in reality!

He had said over phone, “Aryan! I fear we might be too late to save this child. Look it’s almost time for sunrise. The killer or killers would have escaped by now.”

“Inspector, head to Castalla de Aguada, or what you know as Bandra Fort. I am sure our suspects there haven’t lifted the ceremonial blade yet.”

Malik shuddered  from the horror that information had given him. What on earth was Aryan speaking? Bandra Fort? Ceremonial blade? He shook his head mildly, exhaled into his cupped hands and sat straight.

“Speed up!” he told the driver who turned on the stereo.  A song by the band Civil Twilight was playing.

Malik was surprised to hear the lyrics, mysteriously define his current state of mind.

In the cold of the night
The  fire burns bright
You long for the unseen

On the edge of the sea
Your thoughts run deep
You long for a place you’ve never been

The music was haunting and Malik’s thoughts wandered to Nafisa, Adil and Ruksana. He was worried about their safety. That hooded figure performed a frightening ritual in front of his house, across the street. He recalled Aryan’s words. He had said worshippers of the Satan seek his power on moonless nights. They invoke his name using strange rituals involving blood, bones and flesh.  They have tattoos on their bodies proclaiming such beliefs.

Is anybody there?
Is anybody there
You cry to the full moon

Malik looked at the stereo with a terrorized expression. The song played on.

As your thoughts run wild
Like the thoughts of a child
You wonder if you’ll be there soon

But then all of Cyrus’ friends had tattoos, even that secret woman, Jennifer.  Crazy times.

“Shut the stereo,” he ordered the driver.

Allah! Please take care of my family. He muttered a silent prayer. Within just half an hour, they reached their desitnation. The Bandra Fort looked eerie in the faint light of the overcast sky filled with dark clouds. It overlooked the Arabian Sea. Just as the song described.

You long for the unseen
On the edge of the sea

Malik looked around.  The site was calm and peaceful. No signs of disturbance or evil voodoo chants!

He rang up Aryan.

“Move in Sir. You can’t wait there. These sacrifices are not carried out in open daylight. Go inside.” Aryan spoke with confidence. He disconnected and the phone rang again. It was Nafisa. He put it to loudspeaker praying that it was just a normal call from his wife.

“ALTAF!!! RUKSANA IS MISSING. SHE DID NOT SLEEP IN HER BED!”

 ***

Earlier that evening, white faced Tara walked into the news room.  She was aware it was Prime Time and people were busy preparing for the evening news.  She also knew that after this evening, she would be out of a job.  She would never be employed again by a news channel.  But she had to risk it.

All television channels loop the news.  This means that there is a time lag between the time the news is recorded and when it is aired.  This loop is needed in case someone says something seditious or too shocking for the viewers to digest.  The newsrooms like to cover their asses.

Since YTV was young, the loop system was not perfected.  At prime time they did not have a loop.  It was too rushed.  Tara knew it.  She had to use this opportunity.

Her husband, her daughter both needed to hear this. 

One of her junior editors was getting ready to start the evening. 

“I’ll take over,” she said.  Before anyone could react, she took the seat and said,

“During the past few weeks, we have been inundated with reports of horrific crimes against little girls.  No one knows who the perpetrators are.  The police in their wisdom arrested a distraught father who was searching for his missing daughter.  That father was my husband, and the missing child is Roohi, my daughter.  She has still not been found.

The police, in their wisdom again did not arrest Mr. Cyrus Daruwala who was found wandering around, in suspicious circumstances near a warehouse where a dead little girl was discovered.  His body bore injuries.  I think that omission was because he is Mr. Darius Daruwala’s son.

I appeal to all the people.  Everyone.  Please help me, help us get my daughter back.”

She held Roohi’s photo in front of her and wiped her eye.

Before anyone could react, she had left the office.

***

More exciting chapters coming up in Round 3. Stay tuned folks!

Team membersRitu LalitFarida RizwanSunita RajwadeBhavyaAnkita SinghalBushra MRyan Fernandes,  Ankit MahatoDeepa and myself (Kunal Borah)

Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.

 

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