Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Chapter 25: Living a Lie

A fast paced suspense thriller called 'The Sixteenth Hour' from the highly enthusiastic team members of Team 'Supernova'.

Read the previous part of the story here. To start reading the story from beginning, check the first post here.


All that had been happening in the last few hours didn’t seem to make sense at all to Tara. With the kind of information she had recovered regarding Xombie, she expected an incident like this since many months now. But she had always thought that Sarkar was on her side. She had the Home Minister of the country in her confidence although she had been careful never to reveal the information even to him. But now it was the same man who along with their old Lonavala neighbor had plotted such a huge attack. She could only wonder who else was involved.

As she flew the helicopter over the rain washed Western Ghats, she had no clue how she was going to get the train to stop. Should she track down the train herself or did she have time to go straight to Mumbai Central station and get the authorities? With Shekhar’s face flashing across all media channels as the hijacker, she had to make sure that her husband was safe in case the train did stop.

She looked at the radar, adjusted the direction and flew towards Mumbai Central.


***

Shekhar’s pre-recorded message had ended which meant Sasha was on his way and would track him down soon. There was no escape. Hundreds of eyes stared at him as he leapt past them, coach after coach, bogie after bogie, towards the engine. Clearly Sasha’s men were all huddled back with their master in his coach as Shekhar didn’t face any obstacle.

It was just a few minutes now for the train to enter Mumbai sub urban region. Sasha’s deadline had long been over. Shekhar had no plans to hand over the documents. The documents with the names of the Xombie leaders and their works a.k.a. crimes are with Tara, I don’t even have them with me. Why the hell are these guys after me? he wondered for the hundredth time since last evening. He just hoped Tara and Roohi were safe.

As he crossed what seemed like the last passenger compartment, Shekhar heard some loud noises from the break van. As quietly as possible he took a few steps into the break van and entered the nearest toilet.

Somebody was shouting. It was inside one of the compartments and the voice wasn’t clearly audible over the chugging of the train.

“How could you…that girl escaped…? Where…all your men?” Shekhar was able to catch a few words.

Was Jennifer able to escape Sasha? he wondered.

There was no one responding. Suddenly a series of beep sounds came right from inside the toilet. Shekhar froze for a second before realizing it was his phone receiving all the missed call alerts for the past many hours. He immediately silenced the device and hoped the sound didn’t reverberate outside the toilet. One thing was clear- mobile connectivity was working fine in this bogie or it had been restored at least in this part of the train and the shouting he was hearing was also on a phone call.

“WHAT? You mean Tara locked you…IN the safe house?” the shouting continued.

Shekhar suddenly felt relieved for two big reasons. His phone’s sound had clearly not gone out and more importantly, Tara and Roohi were safe. He clearly just heard Tara’s name. Right now he didn’t need to know why his wife and daughter had to escape from the safe house.

As he took a moment to think what he ought to do next, the shouting grew louder and clearer.

At that moment a set of running footsteps made their way into the bogie and stopped right outside the toilet doors.

“Aryan, I don’t care about Sasha! You SEND THE HELICOPTER…NOW…BEFORE WE ENTER MUMBAI” the voice continued shouting and was clearly audible now.

Shekhar cringed as he realized that the voice was clearly not Sasha’s but was more familiar than he could have ever expected.

***

Just a few moments ago Cyrus had been hurtling down the corridor to look for Jennifer when Sasha started chasing him. Shekhar surely had something on his mind and had run with his backpack. It’s a dead end on both sides of the train. Where did Shekhar vanish and why? Cyrus kept thinking. And where had Sasha’s men taken Jennifer?

He ran through the length of the train towards the engine where Sasha and his men had caught him. It had been easy to get the passengers with Cyrus, looking for Jennifer, to take care of most of Sasha’s men. Cyrus had been able to escape and ran for his dear life with Sasha at his heels. Clearly, Sasha didn’t feel the requirement for the use of guns right now. The longer, the better, Cyrus prayed.

Right now, both men stood frozen near the toilet of the break van.

***

Flying at a low altitude made sure Tara got mobile network connectivity. She was not able to reach her editor on phone. Her courier ought to have reached him. She knew he trusted her and considering the influence of the media house she worked in, a news item run by them was sure to get public attention. Xombie would be out in the open already, she thought.

She opened the website of her organization on phone expecting the Xombie information flashing right on top. What she actually saw shocked her. Photographs of two men she knew very well flashed on the home screen. The country’s home minister Purohit Sarkar and her editor Sarit Ray had been murdered.

Gasping, she opened the dialer and made a frantic attempt at calling her husband, praying desperately for the call to connect. The line was blank for a few moments and then it started ringing before being disconnected almost immediately.

***

Shekhar stood silent. Was it Sasha and his men outside the doors? If they try opening the toilet door, he was as good as dead.

He quickly typed a text message on his phone when suddenly the phone started ringing. It was Tara. Had he not been trapped here right now, there was no way he wasn’t going to answer Tara’s call after all these hours of not knowing her whereabouts. He disconnected the call immediately and pressed the message send button on his phone when the toilet door burst open and his phone was thrown out of his hands onto the floor.

Shekhar saw a grinning Sasha standing on the doorway with a shocked Cyrus peering to look inside the toilet over his shoulders.

‘Gentlemen, I think now we all know what is happening here. Let us go inside the compartment. The Kingmaker is waiting. I am sure we all have a lot of questions that need to be answered,’ Sasha said in a surprisingly gentle tone.

***

High above the Mumbai skyline as Tara started descending towards the heli-base, she received a short text:
All well. Train going to stop.
- Shekhar
PS: It’s Jennifer.


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