Editor: Read Chapter XXII here.
The next day at quarter past five, Tarun left on his own, stopping only to remind Sanket and Niranjan that they must ensure the men travelled to Kalwa either singly or in twos after the attack. He gave a bunch of ten Red Spark pamphlets to both, for Niranjan and Sanket to scatter subsequent to the operation, as they had done in the past. After Tarun’s departure, Sanket and Niranjan ordered the men to exit the building in ones and twos to ensure that their neighbours did not get curious. Ravi found himself sitting in front next to the driver, whilst Niranjan, Avinash and Dinesh sat in the rear. In a few minutes, they found themselves speeding on the Western Express Highway.
Ravi had decided to desert that day itself since Holambe would leave Mumbai in the evening, but he was still not sure how and when to do it. He looked at his watch. It was ten to six, but everything was still dark. Soon they had left behind the exit for the domestic airport. The next exit was the Kalina Exit and Ravi realised that they were getting close to the target. Avinash was explaining to Niranjan and Dinesh how Stalin had got Trotsky executed in Mexico and how things would have been different had Trotsky, not Stalin, succeeded Lenin. Ravi clutched his stomach and moaned.
‘What’s the matter Comrade Ravi?’ Niranjan asked.
‘I’m not feeling well, Comrade. I need to…to vomit,’ Ravi said the first thing that came to his head and cupped his mouth with his hands. Until then, he had been feeling fine, but once he had explained the reason behind his distress, a nauseous taste did flood his mouth.
‘For God’s sake, stop the car. The fool will vomit inside the car,’ Niranjan shouted. Since traffic was very light, it was easy for the driver to halt the car and Ravi jumped out, his rucksack on his back. He ran to the side of the road and squatted. Niranjan got out as well but did not get any closer to Ravi. Ravi tried to vomit and failed. He got up slowly and started to walk back to the car.
‘You okay?’ Niranjan asked with genuine concern, even as he remembered Dinesh’s private accusation that Ravi was a coward and a shirker.
Would they shoot him if he were to run away? Ravi wondered. There were a few other vehicles on the road, despite the early hour, possibly because they were so close to the airport. Comrade Niranjan’s pistol would be inside his backpack and it would take him a few seconds to take it out and shoot him.
Ravi decided to make a break for it. He considered giving Niranjan a sock on the jaw before fleeing, but didn’t have the heart to do so, even though it would have ensured that Niranjan wouldn’t shoot him in the back. Instead, he turned around and started to run. For a couple of seconds, Niranjan merely stood and stared.
‘Come back Comrade,’ Niranjan shouted after him in a not so loud voice and Ravi realised that Niranjan wouldn’t dare to shoot. If Niranjan was scared of shouting loudly, what were the chances of him taking out the pistol from his backpack and firing at him on a public highway, possibly jeopardising the entire operation? Ravi laughed to himself as he continued to run. He had over ten thousand rupees in his wallet. He would hail an auto-rickshaw to go to a railway station and then he would take the train to Dadar and get some advice from Holambe before he did anything else.
As Niranjan saw Ravi run away into the darkness, he considered giving chase, but decided against it since it might draw attention. He started to dial Tarun’s number but changed his mind. Comrade Tarun would not be free to talk, as he was doing an entire operation on his own and would not appreciate the distraction. He got back into the car and ordered the driver to move on. ‘What happened Comrade Niranjan?’ Avinash asked.
‘The bastard ran away.’ Niranjan gave a short laugh.
‘You should have killed him.’ Dinesh was furious.
‘I didn’t want to attract attention. What if someone saw?’
‘You were right, Comrade Niranjan,’ Avinash supported his action and Dinesh went silent.
‘I wonder why he did that. Never mind, I will kill him when I see him next,’ Niranjan said casually.
‘That must be why he ran away,’ the driver laughed, but checked himself upon seeing Niranjan’s furious glare in his rear-view mirror. Nevertheless, he dialled Sanket and informed him of what had happened. Soon, they passed the Grand Hyatt Hotel and they could see the silhouttes of tall buildings on Kalina’s CST Road not too far away. The tallest building on CST Road was Maxim Towers and the men inside the car stared at its bold neon signage fixed on the rooftop as they drew closer.
Featured Image (Cover): Nisha Joseph
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