Editor: Read Chapter XX here.
‘Sir, I think we should ignore this one,’ Felix told the Police Commissioner.
‘Once bitten, twice shy, eh?’
‘Given a choice, I will never act on a tip off again, Sir.’ The rest of the men looked down at their respective shoes. They would never live down the shame of having participated in the assault on that god-forsaken shed in Dharavi which killed a bunch of innocent, good people, even if the ongoing investigation would eventually exonerate them for having acted in good faith.
‘Rajesh, what do you think? Is this genuine?’
‘Sir, what do we have to lose? We should…’
‘Rajesh, I know that. My basic question remains unanswered. Do you think this is genuine or will it be another trap?’
‘Sir, if this is a trap, it means the attackers want to confront us. Most probably there will be some fighting. We will have to be prepared for that.’
‘We are prepared, aren’t we? The NSG is here. But please answer my question. Do you think it’s genuine? You are our resident Maoist expert, remember?’
‘Sir, if the attackers are Maoists, then the tip is unlikely to be genuine. Maoists are usually very loyal to their cause and there aren’t too many informers among them. It is bound to be a trap if we are dealing with Maoists. However, I doubt if the attackers are Maoists.’
‘Why do you say that Rajesh?’
Rajesh shrugged. ‘Just a gut feeling sir.’
‘The person who called was a man. Does it change things?’
‘Sir, in my experience, women are more loyal to their cause. So, it is much more likely that a genuine informer would be a man.’
The Police Commissioner smiled before he cleared his throat. ‘Okay, let me hear this once more. Felix, take us through the events. Tell me what happened. Who took the call?’
‘Sir, the call came through the control room, to a number listed on our website. The operator who took the call tried to delay the person by asking questions, but the caller would not wait. He said that a large group of the Maoists would be attacking a building in Kalina tomorrow morning at six o clock. They would arrive in two cars, both cars packed with five men each. The caller said he was one of them, but he is tired of violence and wants to help us. He said he hasn’t been told of the exact target, but that if we were to lie in wait along the Kalina CST Road, we would be able to ambush and catch or kill the attackers.’
‘Was he speaking in English?’
‘No Sir, in Marathi. Accented and with bad grammar. The voice sounded funny, sort of tinny.’
‘Could be intentional, I suppose?’
‘Where was this call made from?’
‘From an internet cafe in Colaba, which also has a few public call booths, in one of those lanes between Regal Cinema and the Taj Hotel.’
‘What did the owner of the internet cafe have to say?’
‘It was six in the morning and an employee was at the counter, not the owner himself. The caller was an Arab tourist.’
‘He didn’t suspect anything? I wish he had called the police.’
‘He did think it unusual that in this day and age, an Arab tourist would want to use a public phone, but Colaba is full of crazy tourists,’ Felix said with a smile.
‘Sir, that internet cafe has CCTV. We are waiting for the recording to get here,’ Felix added.
‘Oh, that’s great. If it turns out to be the same Arab who killed Pankaj Holwani, then it means something, doesn’t it?’
‘Sir, then it has to be genuine.’
‘How much longer will it take for those CCTV images to arrive?’ the Police Commissioner asked in exasperation.
‘Sir, they’ll be here any moment now,’ Felix replied in a wooden voice
The Police Commissioner got up from his chair in excitement and paced the room.
‘This could be a break-through. Listen, let me speak with the DGP. I’ll be back in a while.’
When the Police Commissioner returned, Felix informed him, ‘Sir, we have the CCTV recording. It turns out that the Arab who made the call is unlikely to be one of the two men who killed Pankaj Holwani. Would you like to see the images Sir?’
‘Yeah, let me take a look.’
‘It would have been a bit too much, for a murderer to tip off the police so that they catch him and his comrades later.’ Rajesh, bit his tongue even as he finished speaking. There I go, he thought helplessly. It was as if he was genetically programmed to say the wrong words at the wrong time. Felix gave him an amused look and an officer sitting in front turned around to look at him, as if he wanted to make sure that Rajesh was for real.
As Felix manipulated the images using a remote control, the officers could see a tall and slim Arab enter the phone booth, briefly speak to the person behind the counter and make the call from one of the phones. After the call was made, the Arab paid with a twenty rupee note and walked away without waiting for the change.
‘Comments?’ There were many.
‘He obviously did not want to get delayed waiting for the change.’
‘He must have spoken to that man behind the counter in English, right?’ the Police Commissioner asked.
‘Sir, I checked that,’ Felix quickly answered. ‘The employee who was there doesn’t speak much English and he says, the Arab said something in English and then pointed to the phone with his finger.’
‘He’s holding something white in his hand as he enters. What is it?’
‘It must be a handkerchief. To avoid leaving any prints.’
‘Felix, are we checking for prints?’
‘Yes Sir, but frankly I have little hope. Lots of people went to that booth subsequently and any print would have been erased.’
‘Despite knowing that we are unlikely to get any useful print from that booth, he uses a handkerchief.’
‘We should check all guests at the Taj,’ Felix said. That Arab might be staying there.’
‘For God’s sake, that’s not a real Arab. Don’t waste your time,’ the Police Commissioner snapped.’
‘How do we know it’s a man?’ Rajesh asked pointing to the image of the tall and thin Arab flickering on the large plasma screen which dominated the war room. ‘It could be a woman too, right?’
Featured Image (Cover): Nisha Joseph
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