(9) Episode 2 – A Soldier and a Masked Stranger12 min read

Previously on ‘9’: 


* * * * *

Dawn – Luding Bridge, Sichuan, China

The first light in the sky is equally surprised with the red army (communists) to witness a battalion of Chinese Nationalist forces by the bank of the Luding Bridge equipped with machine gun’s and rage to take the red army down. The suspension bridge made up of 13 heavy iron chains, 9 forming the floor with thick wooden boards lashed over the chains building the roadway across the bridge of a 100 yards long and two chains on either side serving as rails.

The Dadu river beneath the bridge bowed down by slowing its flow in the shock to see two-thirds of the planks in the bridge are removed and the remaining is set to fire. There are not enough boards for the red army to cross the river, leaving no other way than marching through the incoming bullets and take down the opponents.

one young bud in the red army voices out in a furious tone “No letting down! If not the total army, a group. If not a group, a team. If not a team, a couple. If not a couple, at least one would last in this battle to reach the other side”. The charged up army is inching their way over the chains under opponent machine gun fire. Bullets, heat and the imbalance in crossing over the chains stars to push down the communists one by one. Dadu river opened up her arms to console the lives immersed in her. Finally, after a stupendous fight, a soldier in the army reaches the other end. Suddenly ‘Leena’ walks in and points a gun at the survived soldier, releases the gun lock and touches the trigger to take the life. Suddenly in a gasp of breath, she wakes up with the buzz of Favre Leuba alarm. The tick-tocking seabird of the gorgeous alarm’s blue dial teased Leena “Hey! it’s a dream”

“I have not expected a dispute, but a discussion. It’s Silence – an utter silence from Pranav since yesterday. This is the very nature of him. Poor chap, he may not have expected the news of the pregnancy and the opinion to abort come through at such a pace. Did I act in haste? No, I became weak with this objective ideologies.” Leena walks into the lab to check out on Pranav. He is testing the bettles that came alive.. “You seem to be very tired and not slept last night. Take a break! it’s a Sunday-you can afford to relax once in a while.” She barely able to speak only these words with him. Obliging her words, Pranav takes a break, roll over to sleep after a shower and breakfast.

At 11 AM, Dr. Aadesh walks in to find Leena in the living room and settles down on the cushioned sofa. Aadesh a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) is a common friend of Leena and Pranav for more than a decade. At the age of 14, Leena got orphaned post the death of her mother and joined the local Catholic society educational institutions where she met Aadesh and Pranav for the first time. Both of them are with her in thick and thin’s, in fact, she is longing for him since yesterday.

“Hey, Leena! where is that fellow? You know, today I had an interesting conversation with the folks at the church. The topic was, Why do humans find things other than humans beautiful? what do you reckon? is this true?” Leena replies in a solid tone “completely true, sometimes even bettles looks beautiful to men than a soulful wife”.

Why do humans find things other than humans beautiful? what do you reckon? is this true?
Aadesh grasps something is not well and pushes Leena to open up. “I don’t want to bring a new soul to this bizarre world Aadesh, I can’t share the loneliness and inattention with an innocent bud. In 10 words he speaks, DNA, RNA, Genome, Gene expression, Gene cloning, Genetic code, Operon, Pathogen consumes 8 and other 2 are blanks to be filled with anguish. I feel like I’m living with a chemical dump. He is not cruel, he is not impulsive, he is not dominating, the problem is ‘he is not here, he is not with me anymore’ this is unbearable and more painful than any form of tortures. It’s been a month since we shared a meal together. Can you believe it? We already dropped the life standards from celebrating to living and is on our way from living to existing. Pranav is not the one we used to know, he became something else I doubt he too can’t identify his true self anymore.”

Leena! he is mad, vibrant, unemotional, non-empathetic I agree and I endorse too. He is the true kind of idiot as everyone claims. Only you and I are aware of the genius and affectionate shade of him. I am not here to take sides, but it is too early to judge. He is fighting against the odds despite his genetic cloning thesis is been rejected more than a dozen times. This may be a temporary phase, a slight drift. The solidness of a relationship is tested only when it passes through the trembles. Easier said than done, I understand. Take a chance by giving a chance to him.

* * *

Mukund hops on to his van and rushes to examine the CCTV footages for any possible break out. On his way to the control room, calls the department doctor to check on the inhaler, finally leaves the voice message as he couldn’t get hold of him “Doctor, we just recovered a LOFTAIR inhaler from a crime scene, presuming the suspect to be 50+ yrs old. Need more details about this drug and its implication. Call me once you get the message”.

In an odd 10 mins, he reaches the control room and starts rolling over the incident visual back and forth for nearly half a dozen of times. “Satya, did you observe the inhaler trips down to the ground and the suspect was looking for something in his jacket pocket just a few moments before the girl takes off.” Yes, I noticed, wondering what could he be fetching? Also, the other guys with CIT marked jackets on that evening are young guys, probably students. CIT? CIT?

The tape operator starts to giggle and replies to Satya “Cambridge Institute of Technology – a new college near Juhu circle”

Satya in a surprise “what? Cambridge?”

Yes Sir, Cambridge public school, Cambridge tutorial college, Cambridge Vidyalaya. You know there are a couple of dozen educational institutions with the name ‘Cambridge’ in Mumbai. Brand value brother!

“Next stop, CIT – The Cambridge Institute of Technology, hurry up guys. It’s 1.45 AM the chances of students around would be slim, the suspect may leave any traces over there or can even possibly be closer to the college now.” Mukund alerts his team and sprees to CIT with Satya with anticipation. Lights are blazing all over the street with the ‘Welcome Sonu Nigam’ hoardings. Cops can able to sense the buzz of a mass voice as they get closer to the college. New Year music concert by Sonu Nigam got wrapped up an hour ago at the college grounds. Still thousands of students, teaching and support staff are around the place in a deep celebration mode. Every single one is in the jacket marked with ‘CIT’. This literally WOW’ed and disappointed the cops.

Mukund in a spark calls his colleagues attending the case at the hospital to send the snap of the girl. Hands over the pic to Satya to arrange for the projection in the giant digital boards already in place for the concert. “Students, Sorry to halt your celebrations, we are in an identity crisis. A young girl who deserved to be celebrating as you are now is suspected to got murdered and CIT is the only clue we got so far. In a moment, we are gonna project her snap for you all. Raise your hands calmy if you can identify her” Mukund signaled Satya for the projection.

As the projection loads up slowly from neck to tip of the girl’s head, the total crowd in a bizarre tone screams out ‘Kalki’ ‘Kalki’ ‘Kalki’. Deep shock, intense sadness gloomed allover the college grounds.

* * *

Unusually the tropical climate of Pondicherry has toned down since few weeks. Most of the days are cloudy. It is been raining every evening, probably shower schedules. Leena enjoys a cup of coffee and a page of Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead along with her new soul every evening with the showers. Few weeks passed by without much of friction between Pranav and her. Even the unborn was pacifying her with no nausea, no morning sickness, no vomits, no feeling of loathing or disgust. She is doing well physically.

She dreamt the ‘Luding bridge incident’ close to half a dozen of times in the past few days. Every time she comes out of sleep while pulling the trigger to kill the soldier who got to her against the tremendous fighting conditions. Sub-consciously the incident she read about the ‘Long March’ way back keeps visiting her, she felt the soldier she is trying to kill is no one but her unborn.

An inner voice constantly whispering to her “Don’t Abort! any interest that is been lost can’t be regained with the same intensity ever again”

Don't Abort! any interest that is been lost can't be regained with the same intensity ever again

* * *

Students are emotionally disturbed and it is clear Kalki is part of the college. Cops start to pick a bunch of folks to collect more details. Kristina the close kit of Kalki was almost drained out with the pain and grief of Kalki’s loss.

Mukund along with a couple of cops takes her to a classroom, provides a bottle of water..”I know it is very hard to respond, but you have to for your friend. Tell me, what you know about Kalki”

I know Kalki for close to 2 years. We both joined the biotechnology department on the same day. As we both are very introverts, the equation between us was quite easy. She was very charming, jovial and seems to be with no worries. But recently she was telling her father is acting very strange and asked her to drop out from the college and assist him with his business. As the conflicts were ever growing, she came out of her house to join the college hostel. Financially she had no setbacks or dependent on her father. She is a born artist, used to earn by selling her paintings in e-commerce sites. Slowly she got more reserved even to me and other friends. ” I’m scared of my father, don’t know what my mother would have done if she is alive now. ” these were her last words with me.

Mukund inspection continues..

When did you see her last?
“Last Monday, at St. Joseph’s Church, Juhu on the Christmas eve.”

Do you know anything about her mother?
“Kalki never saw her mother, she lost her during the delivery.”

How about her father?
“I met him a couple of times in the church. He is ‘Pranav’. It was all about wishes and greetings, nothing much we had interacted personally. But, he never looked as cruel as Kalki claims.”

You were referring to Kalki’s father business. Any idea what it is?
“It’s local soap manufacturing. I heard from Kalki the manufacturing unit is in Borivali East, North Mumbai.”

Lately, have you ever seen Kalki talking to or meeting up anyone frequently?
“Since she moved to the hostel, she became very reserved with us. Not sure who she is meeting up at the recent times.”

Do you know the address, while she used to be with Pranav?
“I stored in my G-drive, can share with you.”

By the way, In the hostel, what is the Kalki’s unit number?

Thank you! That’s about it for now. we may reach you for any further assistance in this case. Satya, check Kalki’s room for any findings. I shall join you after collecting few more testimonies. It’s 212.

As Satya enters the lane of the unit block on the second floor, a black masked stranger dressed in black from top to bottom is breaking out of unit 212. He is just a 10 yards away, Satya tries to catch him. But he slips away and pushes himself off the lane and lands into the corridor of the first floor, quickly crawls over the building edge pipeline and takes a stupendous jump to the base floor. Satya and the team follow him and start chasing. The chase goes on crossing the hostel blocks, sleeping residential colonies and finally ends up with a dark passage that leads to the Juhu beach. Just the resonating beach and brownish sand, Satya doesn’t see anything apart from these. The masked stranger escapes!

Mukund who is busy in the inspections with the students receives a call from the Doctor “Hey Mukund! just saw your message. Sorry was busy with new year acknowledgments” No Worries doctor, any insights?

“LOFTAIR inhaler is for breathing problems right, but the user need not be always older in age. Pollution, allergies, weak lungs can also yield the usage. For instance, we see the usage higher in Delhi compared to Mumbai.”

Doctor, we are suspecting the killer may be using this inhaler. Unfortunately, rain during the incident didn’t leave a chance for fingerprints or any other forensic traces.

“Mukund, Did you retrieve and preserve the inhaler?” Yes, doctor

“Good, record the evidence in the log and send the inhaler to the Forensic Science Laboratory, you may get the drug details by 9 AM tomorrow. Let’s check whether the content is manipulated” Sure doctor..

Mukund cuts off the phone and drowns in a deep thought.

Click here to read the next episode

Note:- Episode 3 is been constructed on the below most voted plot chosen by the readers. A pure interactive form of story weaving !
  • Masked stranger gets caught 37%, 7 votes
    7 votes 37%
    7 votes - 37% of all votes
  • Cops get hold of Pranav 32%, 6 votes
    6 votes 32%
    6 votes - 32% of all votes
  • Kalki's dead body starts behaving oddly by turning into blue 32%, 6 votes
    6 votes 32%
    6 votes - 32% of all votes
Total Votes: 19
January 16, 2018 - January 22, 2018
Voting is closed

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  1. That’s the beauty buddy..Even the writer has no clue of the mystery, only the readers poll gonna decide of story direction…I too waiting to know who the killer is ??😊😊

  2. Good going………

    The investigation is going in good phase , the black masked stranger presence near the Kalki room distracted my curiosity. As a suspense lover i am expecting more curioous episodes.

    Any way i am just quoting it whats strikes to my mind as a reader.

    Awaiting for next episodes.

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