Previously on ‘9’:
It’s quarter past 3 AM. Kristina anxiously waiting inside the closed interrogation room. Satya and Mukund discussing the approach to tackle with Kristina.
“Did you find anything suspicious among the items we purged from Kristina?” inquired Mukund with the lady guard inspecting Kristina’s possessions. ‘Nothing suspicious, usual girl’s stuff Sir‘.
“Any personal pics, inside her wallet or on the mobile phone?“. ‘I believe this is someone close to her Sir‘ guard takes out a pic of Kristina with a teenage boy in a smiling pose from her wallet. “It may be her brother” Mukund walks into the interrogation room with the pic, Satya follows in.
Kristina is in a terrorized state, unable to cope up with the happenings. Mukund pushes the pic towards Kristina over the table. “I believe this is someone very important to you“. ‘He is my brother sir” replies Kristina. Mukund starts to walk around her “You may end up in jail for the crime you tried to commit, your brother looks not to deserve it. I don’t have all the night, tell me the truth”
In a trembling voice she continues..’Sir, I didn’t harm anyone, Kalki was and is my friend. I have nothing to do with her death. My part was only to steal her toothbrush and place it at a location on the beachside tonight. In fact, I stole the brush after her death announcement from you. I was scared to see the cops before my schedule. So, I diverted you by blaming her father and dispatched Kalki’s toothbrush as per plan’.
“What? you did this for a toothbrush?” Satya and Mukund yell in an unbelievable manner.
1997 – Pondicherry
It’s a very tiring day for Leena in the school, finally, it wraps up. As she steps out amongst the stream of students moving as a chain of ants, she is greeted by ‘Pranav’. The very sight of Pranav waiting to pick her from work evaporated all the stress she is been feeling. Leena’s world witnessed a paradigm shift since Pranav decided to let go his bio experiments. Lots of surprises, shared dinners, poetry, quality time of togetherness spiced up their lives. She sometimes feels “Did I pressed a rewind button in my lifetime machine? Never thought I would revive Pranav as he was with such affection and attention”
Pranav continues his homemade experiments of making soaps, lipsticks. Though it looks silly to her, Leena is more secured and contented with the happenings of life. The concept of house husband is relatively new to her. Pranav takes extra attention to complement her wherever and whenever possible, in fact well in advance.Leena’s burden of thinking is eased up.
It happened quite unexpectedly, one evening after a cohesive dinner, Leena and Pranav are relaxing in the living room. Suddenly Leena feels like vomiting, which is a distant acquaintance so far since her conception, eventually started to pop out. Without any second thought or an ounce of hesitation, Pranav spread his both hands to collect the essence and cleans up space. That night, Leena was in a mixed feeling of emotions which she couldn’t express in any way to Pranav or even to herself for that matter.
The new acquaintance starts to show up frequently and Leena carries cloves to help her in passing through the spell. A clove reminds her the incident with Pranav. Days, weeks rolled by without any notice. While buying the vegetables at the market, Leena finds Dr.Aadesh accidentally.
“Leena, you look much better and joyful now. I’m happy for you” Leena in an acceptive expression “Yes, Aadesh. Thank you for standing by during the tough phase. Glad I listen to know and gave a chance to myself. Otherwise, I would have regretted forever“.
“No worries, by the way, I got a new job in Mumbai, moving out in another 2 months. Tell to Pranav about this, see you on Sunday at the church” Aadesh leaves on a happy note.
On a Sunday evening, Leena and Pranav are playing chess. Pranav is a master of chess, Leena would have won maybe once or twice altogether with him. “Checkmate, your king is gone Leena” Pranav exclaims in a teasing voice. Leena puzzled up and telling herself “Hmm, If I move this bishop, Rook would be killed. This Knight? No, No it’s a threat as well. What’s next? How about Queen?” baby inside her gives a kickback. The pleasure of pain was immense and Leena responds with a move of Queen. She succeeds. Likewise, every subsequent move is guided by the baby kicks. The mother and the baby team wins!
“Look, the bud which is yet to see the light is with me even before it arrives. If someone claims, they can describe the feeling of motherhood, It has to be a partial expression. The pure feeling is just to be experienced, none can justify in expressing it completely”
“Describe in detail” Mukund proclaims..
Kalki and I are friends since our new college days. She is been taken care well by her father, later moved to the hostel in the interest of avoiding overwhelming traffic from her residence to the college. She stays in 212, an adjacent room to mine. A year back, I was looking for a part-time job to cover up my extra expenses which I couldn’t source from home. Then I saw a pamphlet pasted outside the college premises “Wanted youngsters for a Home based work. A payment of INR 10K per assignment. For more details contact the WhatsApp number”. In curiosity, I approached them through WhatsApp and submitted my details along with identification documents. The selection criteria were solving a bunch of crossword puzzles followed up with a background check. A week passed by, on a midnight I received a WhatsApp message “Solve the crossword puzzle in the tomorrow’s newspaper ‘The local daily’ to know about your first assignment. Pick the daily that is been delivered to your room, nothing else”.
I couldn’t believe what I was looking at when I solved the puzzle. The message was “Unit three, Steal sony’s toothbrush, seal it in a plastic envelope, drop in the post box opp. college gate with your mobile number”. It looked suspicious and the WhatsApp number become unreachable and irresponsive. I continuously got the threatening messages through crossword puzzles like..
“Do it, U can’t escape”
“U are pushing your family into a threat”
In fact, my brother was abducted for a couple of days by unknown. Slowly I started to lift and deliver the toothbrushes. Somewhere I felt, it’s a kind of no harm. What anyone can do with a toothbrush.
Finally, when I saw Kalki’s name in the recent message, I was a bit skeptical and wanted to open up with her. It was shocking to me as well to hear through Kalki’s death from you, soon realized, I may get caught as well. So, I portrayed Kalki’s father in a negative way such that you focus on him, in the meanwhile I can dispatch her toothbrush as the final trial in the beach and leave the city for the best of my life.
What I didn’t expect was Kalki’s room inspection tonight itself. I thought, if I don’t lift Kalki’s toothbrush before you folks, it could be impossible once the cops took over. I rushed through the shortcut from the back of college grounds to the hostel blocks. As my unit is just adjacent to Kalki’s, It was easy for me to get disguised inside my unit and execute the plan.
Both Mukund and Satya are in a sort of limbo, either they couldn’t believe it completely or can deny it.
As Satya inquires in a curious tone, Kristina continues to answer in a slow voice..
“How many toothbrushes you dispatched so far?” ‘Close to 20, sir’
“How are you been paid?” ‘in cash, I used to get the location of placement through crossword puzzles. It is different in every instance’
“Have you ever sensed anyone following you?” ‘never, sir’
After a series of questions, in a despair, both Mukund and Satya comes out of the interrogation room. How on earth someone devices this kind of plan and execution to collect used toothbrushes? it’s haunting both.
‘It looks, we may lose this Mukund. The WhatsApp number is a fake one. I’m sure this is not started with her or stopped with her. There could be many in this trap. Even the assignment is not for a particular individual. Based on the puzzle in the newspaper copy they get, their target alters. Missed targets are identified with the mobile numbers in the catalog and are threatened. This is crazy !!’
“Don’t lose your heart, all the crimes are seen uncrackable till it does. Just think about the next right move. Let’s take up from the source, how are these daily newspapers are reaching them?” Mukund finishes and runs up a check to gather the information.
“Satya, ‘The local daily’ distribution to the areas in and around the college, starts at 4 AM. The distributor folks off-boards the bundles of the newspaper from the local train at the Andheri local train Station and roll over to other areas till Churchgate through the same local train. Based on the categorized tags, the newspaper bundles are sub-divided and transported to the delegated addresses.”
‘Let’s hunt then‘, as Satya unleashes in anxiety, both rushes to the Andheri train station. It’s 15 mins to 4 AM. As they cruise towards the train station, the supposed local train is passing along the sidetrack in parallel as if teasing them. In a span of seconds, the train disappeared by racing before them. As soon as they reach the train station, Mukund orders “Satya, you come through the west gate, I would take the main entrance to the platform“. As both rushes in their respective directions, an announcement of “Attention passengers! Train no: 2789 from Andheri towards Churchgate is ready for departure at the platform No.3” is playing in a loop.
Satya and Mukund take a breath to hear a follow-up announcement “Attention passengers! Train no: 2789 from Andheri towards Churchgate is departing from Platform No.3“. Mukund is at the overhead bridge of platform 1 and needs to cover an odd 300 feets to catch downstream of stairs on the other side to platform 3. He stumbles and runs at full pace to reach Platform 3, he missed the train in a neck of few feets. As he kneels in disappointment, Satya waves from the train. He managed to sneak in at the last leg from the west gate side.
In a sigh of great relief, Mukund was thinking “good that Satya made it“. As he walks back, he finds the off-boarded bundles of ‘The Local Daily’ newspapers dumped in the platform, quickly searches for the CIT hostel’s batch in the stock, eventually finds it and starts opening up the bundle “ah! here it is. Let’s see what it is up to. Oh no! Every newspaper has a different crossword puzzle, the volume of newspapers is close to 200+, meaning many more students in this trap ??”
Mukund walks back with the bundle of newspapers…
- Mukund tracks the students involved in the trap of lifting toothbrushes 47%, 8 votes8 votes 47%8 votes - 47% of all votes
- Satya traces the 'The Local Daily' newspaper source 29%, 5 votes5 votes 29%5 votes - 29% of all votes
- Pranav gets to know his daughter's death news 24%, 4 votes4 votes 24%4 votes - 24% of all votes