Editor: Read Chapter XLIII here.


‘So, we have two groups of people fighting each other and trying to get the other captured or killed? Tarun’s bunch and Teji’s bunch!’ the DGP commented wryly.

‘We are sure that Tarun’s bunch would be happy if we capture Teji’s friends,’ Rajesh said.

‘And in all probability, it was one of Tarun’s who tipped us off about Kalina?’

‘Looks like it, Sir.’

They were back in the war room, but this time there was a feeling that they had made substantial progress. An anonymous phone call from a man offering them Holambe’s mobile number was the latest twist in the saga which had been going on for two months.

‘Sir, I feel we should not act on this tip,’ Felix said. ‘Let Holambe and his Maoists hunt for Tarun. They are helping us.’

‘Unfortunately, Holambe and his friends are genuine Maoists. We can’t let them run free in Mumbai city, even if they are hunting Tarun,’ the DGP thundered.

‘Let’s see those photos again,’ the Police Commissioner ordered.

The photos which Yaroslav had taken were displayed once more.

‘Sir, by today evening, Tarun’s pictures will be all over the city,’ Felix informed the Police Commissioner. ‘We will show them on TV too.’

‘I hope we get it right this time. Is that Tarun?’

‘Yes Sir, that’s Tarun.’

What if it’s not Tarun?’ the Police Commissioner asked.

‘It has to be sir,’ Felix replied. ‘Tarun has had a passport for the last ten years and the biometric match is perfect. Yaroslav’s description makes it clear that Tarun is the leader. In any event, among those who were trained by Yaroslav, he alone has the brains and education to do what has been done.’

‘So Teji and three others came to Mumbai to help Holambe and Ravi extract revenge for the deaths of Avinash and others. The question is, why did Tarun do it?’

‘Sir, we are still investigating his past. He had a normal middle-class childhood. His father worked for the Central Government’s Agmark department and had a transferable job. Tarun went to school in a number of places like Indore, Agra, Coimbatore and Bhubaneshwar. He got an engineering degree from a private college in Dehradun, did an MBA from Chlorophyll in Pune and came to Mumbai to work for Nebraska Securities. His retired parents live in Chandigarh and his married sister lives in Delhi with her husband and two children. No different from thousands of other young men his age.’

‘There has to be something in his past that would give us a clue.’

‘We are still looking sir.’

Rajesh heard a beep from his neighbour’s mobile. The officer sitting next to Rajesh read the text message and whispered to Rajesh, ‘Prices are still falling. If you want to buy, this is the perfect time. Once Holambe and Tarun are arrested, they will go up once more.’ Rajesh gave him a polite smile and ignored him.

‘So, should we or should we not take in Holambe and his gang?’

The general consensus was that there was no choice, but to nab Holambe and his cohorts. In any event, they had Tarun’s photos and even arresting Tarun would not be a big problem. From a corner of his eye, Rajesh saw his neighbour type an SMS. ‘Let’s make an offer tomorrow morning’ and he sat up as if shot in the foot.

Rajesh’s head was buzzing, as if the various circuits in his brain were trying to make a connection. He became breathless and did not realise that he was tapping his fingers on his chair and pressing his heel into the floor, as though he wanted to burrow inside.

‘Sir, this just occurred to me,’ Rajesh shouted out, his voice hoarse with excitement which made everyone pay attention, including his neighbour. ‘What if the people behind Tarun are a bunch of property dealers?’

‘Property dealers? Why would they? Prices went down, didn’t they?’

‘Look at it this way. If you are in the property business, buying and selling properties all the time, if you knew that a major terrorist attack was on its way and you were the only one who knew, what would you do?’

Rajesh was greeted with stunned silence. ‘You would sell, wouldn’t you? And then if you knew that all the terrorists who for the past two months have been unleashing mayhem in the city are about to be captured or killed, what would you do?’

‘You would buy,’ Rajesh’s neighbour whispered, and a number of officers nodded their heads.

‘Are you saying,’ the Police Commissioner said excitedly, ‘are you saying that a bunch of property dealers go together and thought this one up? They sent Tarun to hijack an otherwise peaceful bunch of people and make terrorists out of them so that they would blow up buildings and drive down property prices?’

‘Broadly speaking, that’s my theory sir. And when the prices were sufficiently down and the people behind Tarun had bought enough properties, they tipped us off about the Kalina raid so that we could kill those nine men. Remember, those car bombs incinerated all bodies so badly that we could not identify a single one of them!’

‘Then what would have happened when Holambe and his friends attacked Sampat?’ Felix asked.

‘Ravi messed up the party for Tarun by not getting killed with the others at Kalina. He then made it worse by bringing some real Maoists to Mumbai to fight Tarun’s gang. Once Sampat was attacked, prices fell again and Tarun’s friends wouldn’t have liked it one bit. They would have bought a number of properties before the Kalina ambush and enjoyed watching the prices shoot up once we announced that all attackers had been killed and Mumbai was safe.’ Rajesh’s explanation was greeted with a long silence, as if an oracle had spoken.

‘Makes sense,’ a number of voices said after a considerable interval. ‘This is the only theory that makes any sense.’

The officers started speaking out of turn in their excitement and the Police Commissioner and Felix had to shout loudly to be heard and to bring order.

‘Let Rajesh speak. It’s his theory,’ the DGP commanded.

‘Sir, let’s get some research done,’ Rajesh pleaded. ‘Let’s start gathering data on property transactions in Mumbai during, say, six months before the attacks, during the period of siege, immediately before the Kalina ambush and everything until now. If we find that one or two people have been especially active in these times, selling before the attacks and buying just before the Kalina ambush, we would have our suspects. Felix sir, please form a task force to get this done as soon as possible.’

In the given circumstances, Felix did the only decent thing possible and said, ‘Rajesh, you start the research. You head the task force. I’ll be around to help. We’ll add more members as we go along.’

‘We’ll need officers who are very brave,’ Rajesh suggested raising eyebrows. ‘Brave with numbers that is.’ A howl of laughter followed.

‘If we capture Holambe and his friends, we will be helping Tarun’s people,’ Felix said in a thoughtful voice.

‘Never mind, Tarun will be in jail soon and so will the people behind Tarun,’ the Police Commissioner vowed. ‘Felix, get the triangulation teams ready as soon as possible. Once they are in place, call Holambe on his phone and capture him and his friends.’


Featured Image (Cover): Nisha Joseph

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