As part of 1000WADv2, I am trying my hand at crime fiction. I wrote some 2700 words and I dint even touch the C of crime. Damn. Read on anyway and please share your feedback. Comment or email.
It began like any other day in the office for Prakash Mohile. As the chief inspector with the crime prevention bureau of Mumbai Police, his job was a tough one. For a city that more than two crore people call home, Mumbai had a very small police force of just about 41000 employees, divided into 89 stations. And with all the VIPs, film stars and industrialists that demanded constant protection from threats legit and otherwise, the force was always understaffed and overworked.
Amongst all the odd jobs that Prakash was responsible for, he was also in charge of protection net for those famous film stars. On the outside he came across as a no nonsense policeman with an impeccable service record and a clean image. He was even friendly with a few reporters on the crime beat with major newspapers. Like most mornings, today he was leafing through case files from the previous evening, hearing out the mercy pleas of kin of miscellaneous men arrested yesterday and barking instructions at his juniors. All at the same time. And not for a minute he stopped staring at Renu Sharma, the photo journalist with a nameless international publication. Renu was doing a photo essay on Mumbai police and though Mohile did not appreciate anyone interfering with the way he worked, Renu had been put in the station by the city Mayor and Mohile could not do a thing about it. Of course it helped that Renu was good looking, intelligent to talk to and obviously interested in more than merely professional relationship with Mohile.
Most cases today were as drab as they were on any other day. Same set of extortion calls, thefts, road accidents, celebrity altercations, union troubles. By the time officers spend five or so years in the police service, they become indifferent to all the miseries around them. Not Prakash. He had been in service for more than 10 years, or 10 years, 4 months and 3 days, as he liked to remind his staff every day. Every day while allocating casing to his subordinates, he would ponder on the meaning of life and unnecessary grief caused by these crimes. No surprises that he was most sympathetic to the issues of poor and helpless. And most indifferent to miseries of the rich. And as a result, he would allocate the cases of the fanciest film star to the worst of his team.
And it came as a surprise to everyone today when he kept a very high profile case for himself. Even Renu took note of it, now that she has been shadowing Prakash for well over a week now and was aware of his decisions. No body had the balls to question him, he was very clear in his head when he decided something. But then Renu did not subscribe to either fear or respect for Prakash. She was anyway known to be a loud mouth.
"So, Inspector Saab, finally you found a case worthy of your time? You are also going to chase lime light now with this stupid case of what looks like a petty theft at Nidhi Kapoor's house?", taunted Renu, while stuffing her things in her bag. She knew that once Prakash does the allocation, he wants every officer on the field.
Prakash just looked up at Renu, gave her his trademark smirk and went back to his files. That smirk, had as infamous reputation as any goon could have. Prakash used when he knew he was right and the other person dead wrong. For different people it meant different things. For suspects and criminals, it meant that Prakash has called their bluff and they were now in the bad books of Prakash. Forever. For his subordinates, it meant that they hadn't done their homework and were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. For people who did not know Prakash, it just came across as a silly smile of a tall, lanky balding old man. For Renu, however, it merely meant that Prakash was amused at the apparently smart comment by her.
Renu knew of the smirk. She could not tolerate her being dismissed like that. She egged on, "I know you like Nidhi Kapoor. Weren't you a part of her security detail when the premier of her last film was screened for the CM? There were quite a few pictures of you, her and the CM in all the newspapers. You do seem to have a soft corner for her".
"Stop wasting your time. If you want to come along, you better hurry up". Prakash said, while rushing out of the station. Renu had to almost run to reach the gates of the police station and grab a seat in Prakash's jeep. That's another thing. Prakash drove his jeep by himself. The driver was merely a watchdog and usher for the jeep; Prakash would park the jeep wherever he felt like, irrespective of the time of the day or the traffic in the city.
On the way, while they were crossing the Juhu Beach, Renu said, "Prakash Sir, we must come here sometime in the evening. I've heard the Pao Bhaji is to die for". The constables and the driver giggled softly at the overt display of affection. Prakash stared hard at them. His stare was enough to put the fear of God in anyone's head. All three of them shut their mouths in less than a second. Renu was quite amused with the scene and started looking at people milling around on the beach. She wondered why would someone come to a beach at 11 in the morning? Dint they have better things to do? Were they jobless. And then her thoughts drifted towards Prakash and the last week that she had spent with him. She knew she was craving for Prakash and despite him knowing it, he remains illusive.
The jeep came to a halt all of a sudden and Renu was almost thrown out of the jeep, if only Prakash hadn't caught her. She did not know how to react. She was still shocked from the sudden break and yet she could feel the strong grip of Prakash on her arms. "Next time, you better sit in the back. These jeeps are not your luxury cars that you girls now a days are used to", said Prakash while getting down from the jeep. The constables had alighted by then and were already walking towards the front door of Nidhi Kapoor's house.
The access to house wasn't easy really. It was a Sunday and on each Sunday, precisely at noon, she would step outside on the balcony of her mansion and wave at her fans for exactly 2 minutes. And for some reason, the number of fans eager to get a glimpse of her, in flesh and blood, only went up every week. Today as well, the road opposite her house was jammed with bumper to bumper traffic and huge crowd that had gathered for the weekly sighting of Nidhi Kapoor. Renu had done a story on this phenomenon few weeks back and had captured pictures of residences of Kapoors, Khans and other acting clans. But for some reason, Renu felt that today there was this unrest in the crowd and rather than a bobbling mass of energy that these crowds normally are, today it was cold and distant. By this time Prakash had stopped the jeep in the middle of road and was scampering towards Nidhi Kapoor's house with his team. Renu ignored her thoughts and tried to keep pace with Prakash and his team.
Prakash was trying to wade through the crowd towards Nidhi Kapoor's house and when he heard his head constable and closet confidant in his team, Praveen Tambe, mutter, "I wish even I had these many people standing outside my house for my darshan. These film stars must be bribing God to give them such wonderful lives". Prakash turned to him and said, "Wait till we get back to station. I would hang you upside down, naked, in front of the station. Then you'd definitely get some audience". Praveen blushed for a moment and he stopped in his tracks for a minute. Only to be pushed around by crowd around him. Prakash said,"Move it bhai, we dont have all day. This case was sent to us by the commissioner's office". And he rushed towards the gate, with Tambe, Nidhi and another constable in the tow.
The guards on duty today were more alert than ever. Normally they would be sprawled on their chairs, under an umbrella and would be sipping on to their teas. Today they were alert and had made a security ring outside the main door. They even had their guns, which normally were out of sight, in full display. When they saw these four run toward the house, they got tense for a minute. But when they recognized Prakash and Praveen and heaved a sigh of relief. They tried to stop Renu but Praveen signaled that she was with them. The door opened just enough to let them through and then it closed behind them, faster and tighter than ever.
And suddenly, from the commotion on the street outside, they were in an expansive and yet well-maintained lawn. It was quiet and serene inside. It was as if they were teleported to a different place, a different time. Prakash looked up at the noise reduction barriers installed on top of the wall that made the periphery of the large house. Praveen followed Prakash's gaze and understood what Prakash was thinking. In the lawn, a middle aged man was was pacing frantically around the chairs placed bang in the middle of the lawn. When he saw Prakash and his entourage, he ran towards them.
"Hello Inspector... Mohile", said Naveen Kapoor, eyeing Prakash's name badge. Naveen Kapoor continued, "I am Naveen Kapoor. Nidhi's uncle and her manager. I spoke to Commissioner Sharma in the morning only. Thank you so much for coming at this short notice. Sharma saab could not come? I was expecting him, you know."
"Mr. Kapoor. Sharma saab may not have time to chase wide geese like this. He had instructed me to visit you personally and here I am. Otherwise even I have other pressing matters to worry about. Can I please meet Ms. Nidhi now?" Prakash was clearly offended by Kapoor's demand to see the police commissioner and he cut the long monologue that Naveen had launched himself into.
"How dare you talk to...And who is she? And I clearly told Sharma saab, no photographers". Kapoor pointed at Renu and her camera.
Prakash said, "I know what you asked him. She is with us and she will be present while I am here. I can assure you that she will not click any pictures but she will stay. If you like it, we can stay and meet Ms. Nidhi. If not, we can go back to the station and wait for Mr. Sharma to get free and come and see you".
"I dont believe... Ok. She is in her room. Lets go there", Naveen started to argue but then thought better of it. He rushed towards the house.
The house was an impressive structure, shaped like a Pantheon. And thus it was tough to guess the number of floors. But the elevation looked like as if it was a three story structure. Prakash, Praveen and Renu started following Naveen Kapoor. Prakash nodded at the third policeman and indicated him to guard the main entrance. The policeman went off towards the main gate to the house.
"Who else lives in this house Mr. Kapoor?", asked Prakash.
"Here? Nidhi, her mother, her assistant, a couple of servants. That's about it. I live in a building in the next lane. I come and go as and when Nidhi or Nilima, my sister and Nidhi's mother need me.", replied Kapoor.
Prakash stared at his back and continued, "What about all those guards on duty at the main gate? Where do they live?"
"Oh, those, they dont live here. We've hired a security agency and four guards work here on 6 hour shifts each. So total of 24 guards. There is a room for security guards towards the end of the lawn. They use that room for wash and change", Kapoor said, pointing a finger at a small room on the far end of the house. From that room, someone with an intent and powerful set of equipment could keep an eye on the house and the entrance, without getting noticed.
Prakash whistled and said to no one in particular, "24 guards? For one woman? And when shes not even at the home most of the times? Why are we wasting our time here Tambe?". Tambe knew that he was not supposed to react. This was how Prakash worked.
Kapoor, as if he did not hear Prakash, continued. "Nidhi is the biggest superstar in the Indian film industry. Her last 3 movies have gone on to make more than 100 crores each on the box office. We have to be very cautious. Even the guards are not allowed inside the house. And the house has a biometric access system".
Kapoor put his thumb on an electronic scan pad, entered a string of numbers of the pad and opened the door for the group. He said, "please come in".
Renu all this while was seeping in the scenery around her. Nidhi Kapoor was obviously rich and had a fine taste. The house had been done nicely. The reception hall, or the drawing room, was rather large for Mumbai standards, with a nice chandelier hanging from the ceiling. She frowned at it. She thought chandeliers were a thing of past and nobody used them anymore. She hated it when she was proved wrong. Each wall had a certain character to it. Each wall told a different story. The one of the left was full of photos of Nidhi Kapoor, framed in wooden photoframes in all size. It was like a rectangular mesh of wood with pictures of Nidhi Kapoor stuck in the mesh. The one on right probably was where Nidhi Kapoor showcased art and pictures from famous artist friends. It also had life size posters of old movies, from the time when posters were actually sketched and coloured by hands. Renu wanted to steal that Sholay poster. She made a mental note of it.
There was a sofa set underneath the chandelier that could seat a mini procession and yet leave room for more people to sit on. The tables behind the sofa set, had curios, apparently gathered from all parts of the world. The whole place had a sense of symmetry to it. Like someone had used a ruler to put it all together with great care. While she was wondering about the meticulous brain that had designed the hall, she realized that she was left alone in the hall. She saw the back of Tambe dissappeaing behind an open door on the left. She scampered towards that door and yelled out loud, "wait for me!".
She rushed in the room and immediately stepped onto something sticky on the floor. And she froze at her place. Her eyes opened up wide with amazement. Or was it horror. Or may be shock. She could not pinpoint what emotion was at play and had left her stunned with her jaws hanging open. She could feel all the energy drain out of her system. Her head began to throb and she could imagine a lump, size of a cricket ball, beneath her scalp, aching to burst out of her head. With great difficult, she took a step back and grabbed the door to help herself from falling like a heap of potatoes.
Renu was not weak hearted at all. She had seen her share of gory crime scenes as a criminal photo journalist and she had earned the reputation for having guts of steel. Crime scenes that made the most experienced of policemen empty their guts out on the sides, she worked those as if she was strolling in a park. But she was not really prepared for, what was unfolding in front of her eyes. In what looked like the office of the famous actress, Nidhi Kapoor.
Part 2, Part 3