Editor: Read Chapter XXVIII here.
‘Back to square one, are we?’ the Police Commissioner asked the grim-faced men in the war room. The only response he received was stony-faced silence.
‘Someone please explain to me why we agreed that every attacker was killed and the whole episode was behind us?’ the Police Commissioner screamed. An embarrassed silence was all he got.
‘Felix, how far have you got in identifying those nine men who were killed at Kalina?’
‘Not very far sir. All bodies were burnt beyond recognition. We still don’t have a clue if these men were locals recruited for this job or if they came from outside Mumbai. We have been asking around if a group of nine men have gone missing from anywhere. We have received a number of reports and we are sorting through them.’
‘Last night, at ten p.m., what were you doing?’
‘What were you doing at ten p.m. last night?’
‘Nothing sir. I was at home.’
‘Exactly my point! You were at home.’
‘You stopped burning the midnight oil. You were at home making love to your wife or someone else’s wife. It’s been twelve days since we killed those nine men. If only you men had continued working at the same pace after those men were killed, maybe you would have found out their identities by now. Maybe the latest attack could have been prevented.’
All the men in the room looked shamefaced.
‘Rajesh, you went off to Kerala to get engaged, didn’t you?’
‘Yes sir, I did.’
‘When did you get back?’
‘This morning sir.’
‘Just in time for the party. When’s the wedding?’
‘April 15th, Sir.’
‘Rajesh, if this case isn’t solved to my satisfaction, you will not get any leave in April. Is that understood?’
‘Yes Sir,’ Rajesh replied even as he promised himself that he would rather quit than not get married in April.
‘Okay, let’s start reviewing what we’ve got. Felix, please take me through the facts for this one.’
A middle-aged officer sitting next to Rajesh muttered, ‘When do you think this will get over? I need to leave a bit early.’
Rajesh gave him a sympathetic smile and turned away as Felix started to speak.
‘A group of four men and a woman entered Sampat at around noon today. The woman spoke Hindi. She entered first and was dressed like a housemaid. She was in her mid-thirties and she carried a large bag which held a pistol. After gaining entry, she threatened the three security guards in the cabin and held them at gun point, though the pistol stayed in her bag and passers-by would not have noticed that anything was amiss. The four men were dressed in half-sleeved shirts or tee-shirts and jeans, they wore shoes, sports shoes, and had small cloth bags with shoulder straps which held their firearms. The men went upstairs to the first floor, taking the fourth guard with them. They spent a few minutes inside flat 101 on the first floor and when they left, they planted explosives inside the flat and detonated the explosives just after they exited the building. They did not leave as a group. They split up outside the building and disappeared. There was no pursuit since the guards had been trussed up and the explosion inside Flat 101 diverted everyone’s attention.
‘Any CCTV in Sampat?’
‘No sir. They never got around to installing it.’
‘Is that all we know?’
‘Yes Sir. No, Sir. We are checking the CCTV footage from Chembur Railway Station. Most probably that’s where at least some of them went and we are planning to make the guards from Sampat watch the recording and pick out anyone they recognise.’
‘When will that happen?’
‘In another hour I believe, Sir.’
‘Okay. Good. Let me know. Rajesh, you are the expert on Maoists. Do these folks sound like Maoists to you?’
‘Yes Sir, they do. The new ones that is.’
‘And why is that?’
‘Mainly because they had a woman among them. That’s a very Maoist thing to do, involving women in equal measure.’
‘That’s it? Just for that one reason you think these attackers are Maoists?’
‘Sir, this is just a feeling, but I am convinced these attackers are Maoists just as I am sure that the ones who got killed at Kalina weren’t.’
‘Felix, why do you think they targeted Flat 101?’
‘Sir, they must have gone to Flat 101 to look for someone or something and when they didn’t find what they were looking for, they blew up the flat.’
‘Is Sampat extensively damaged?’
‘Lots of cracks, but it doesn’t look like it will fall down. The authorities may not permit anyone to live there until some extensive repair work is carried out.’
‘Poor bastards. I hope the owners have insurance cover.’
‘We are assuming that those four men must have carried the explosives in their bags?’
‘We guess so Sir, but we’re not sure. According to the security guard who was standing near the lifts when taken prisoner, the cloth bags were not that big and each had a firearm inside, either a pistol or a revolver. But the explosives should also have been in those bags. We don’t have any other explanation. The woman had a bigger bag, much bigger, but the security guards are sure that the woman did not hand over anything to the men before they went inside.’
‘What if the explosives were already inside the flat?’ Rajesh asked.
‘Rajesh, we have no reason to think explosives were stored in that flat,’ Felix retorted quickly.
‘Why did they target Flat 101?’ the Police Commissioner asked once more.
‘We don’t know Sir.’
‘Find out. That’s crucial. Who stayed there?’
‘Sir, the flat is owned by one Xavier D’Souza. According to the builders, this Xavier lives and works in Dubai and he bought two flats in Sampat as an investment. Apparently, he has rented out both the flats.’
‘So, who is the tenant?’
‘Sir, we don’t know yet. We should know in a few hours’ time.’
The Police Commissioner looked angry though he had no right to. The attack had taken place less than six hours ago. ‘As soon as you find out, call me.’
The officer sitting next to Rajesh looked fidgety. Rajesh gave him another sympathetic smile. ‘I just need to leave you know,’ he whispered once again. ‘Prices will fall once again, I’m sure and I must buy this time. I missed the last one.’
On seeing Rajesh’s perplexed look, he explained, ‘When the attacks happened, house prices had fallen dramatically. When those nine men were killed, they went up again. Now, once again the prices will drop. I have already identified a flat. I just need to speak to my broker and give him instructions to buy once the prices go down again, before we catch the bastards who did this, and the prices go back to normal.’
Rajesh shook his head. He had very little savings and had no plans to buy a flat in Mumbai, not when he was entitled to a government flat, which the DG (Housing) had promised to make available to him in another month’s time. In any event, he was busy planning for his wedding and the honeymoon and did not want to waste time on anything else.
‘Come on men, I need new ideas,’ the Police Commissioner said.
‘Sir, I have an idea,’ Rajesh put his hand up.
‘Sir, we have the dreaded Maoist leader Etayya in our custody. Currently, he is lodged at the Nagpur Central Jail. We could bring him to Mumbai and…’ Rajesh stopped mid-sentence. His idea did not sound very practical even to him.
‘We get Etayya to call on the Maoists who have come to Mumbai to surrender. Tell them that violence is never the solution and that they should lay down their weapons.’
‘And you think they will actually surrender if he makes such an appeal.’
‘No sir. Unlikely. But it will have an effect.’
‘It will have the effect of showing that we are doing something. Let’s do it. Who’s a reliable officer in Gadchiroli who can bring Etayya to Mumbai?’
‘Sir, Inspector Makarand is very reliable. I will call up and ask him to bring Etayya to Mumbai. They’ll have to chopper it, I guess.’
‘Just one inspector to bring someone so important?’
‘No Sir, there will be two C60 men, Ashok and Guna, who will be with Inspector Makarand.’
‘Okay, get it done fast, then’
The Police Commissioner turned to Felix. ‘How many days more will you require to check out the list of minor communist organisations from the IB?’
‘Sir, we will need another week. There are twenty-eight groups with membership ranging from fifty to over a thousand. So far, we have checked out sixteen of them and they are all harmless or at least their members are traceable, and they seem to be doing mundane things. We should be able to examine the rest in another week.’
‘Another week? If only you men had burnt the midnight oil every day, you could have verified all of them by now. I am so angry with you Felix.’
Felix sat with his head bowed, his face flushed with embarrassment. ‘And the DGP blames me for not pushing you men hard enough.’
‘I guess the home minister is blaming the DGP,’ the officer sitting next to Rajesh whispered to him. ‘And if I don’t get home in time today, my wife will blame me,’ he told Rajesh who smiled and looked away.
Featured Image (Cover): Nisha Joseph
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