Previously on 9:
* * *
1 Jan 2018, 5:00 AM – Juhu Police Station
The most drowsy period of the duty for all the cops in the Juhu station. As it’s a new year night, most of the cops are out, only a couple are in the station and are looking for their replacements to handover the duty and close the night. The first newspaper of the year reaches the police station entrance with a monotone voice ‘Paperrr’ from the paperboy.
Mukund returns to the police station with the bundle of ‘The Local Daily’ newspapers that is captured at the train station. As he walks in furiously, Pranav gets in his way. He looks pale, anxious, tired and restlessly surrounded by fearful thoughts and scary images. ‘Sir, what’s happening? it’s been more than a couple of hours now. Any progress? are you able to get close to my daughter?‘
“We are at an important phase of cracking this case. I can tell you that” Mukund taps on the shoulder of Pranav and walks into his room. Picks up a crossword puzzle from the bundle and starts solving. It goes on for a while, none of the results are suspicious, every single result yields usual words. There is no match of the word ‘Tooth Brush’ in any of the dozen results solved thus far. Mukund tries to solve few more. Of all the results polled up, none meets the expectation.
Mukund approaches Pranav “We are facing a roadblock in a case, the suspect is sending the messages to his counterparts in the form of crossword puzzles. Fortunately, we are able to capture the bundle of newspapers embedded with the secret messages. But none is giving us any meaningful information. In the interest of a new perspective, could you please have a glance?”
Pranav examines few solved puzzles ‘Sir, these puzzles are built with skip logic. Meaning the entire outcome of the puzzle changes based on the first solution you put in to crack it. The suspect should be an intelligent cat. Look at the entry questions in all the puzzles.
What are the first three letters of your street name?
In which town you were born?
What is your brother’s name?
only the targetted individual information can unlock the real message. I can understand, when we are completely consumed in a trance of a situation we often forget very basic things. Your anticipation may have overtaken the logic to see this. Who is this guy? seems you got a hard nut to crack.‘
Before Mukund thinks of anything, a newspaper flies into the station corridor. An unknown flips the paper into the station and flees. On the top of the newspaper, in huge block letters, it’s been quoted as ‘To Mukund, Solve the crossword puzzle‘
* * *
1997 – Pondicherry
Leena wakes up with a series of knocks at the main door. It’s about 3 PM in the afternoon. Jenny aunty, a well-wisher and the neighbor of Leena standing at the other side of the door. “Come in aunty” Leena invites her with a very heavy tone. As both walks towards the living room, She asks in a concerned tone “Leena, any news from the police station? Did they able to find Pranav?”
They settle down on the cushioned sofa, “No aunty, it’s been 5 days now. No clue or trace so far. I am slowing losing the trust in them.”
In a consolement sigh ‘Hmm! Don’t lose your heart, Leena. Sure they are going to find out Pranav soon. You shouldn’t drift away from hope. I can sense your feelings. Save it for the best, you have to source the trust and belief of positive outcome to another soul.’ as she completes both hear a voice of ‘Madam! Madam!‘ coming through the main door.
Leena attends the voice and brings Mary and her both children ( a 5-year-old boy and a 3-year girl) into the living room. Mary starts crying and pleading Leena ‘Forgive us, Madam, because of we, Sir went missing. Though with a pure heart he tried to help us, eventually it swallowed him.’ Leena is spellbound and is in complete silence as if frozen. Jenny took a lead ‘Compose yourself Mary it is not intentional, who thought that ends up like this. It’s not a good way out to cry before kids.’ Mary continued to cry out loud for another few minutes followed up with a long pause of immobility all over the house.
Actually, what happened Mary, we hear a lot of different versions, Jenny insists ‘Mary open up‘… ‘Aunty! my husband Peter’s boat along with a load got stuck in the middle of the sea and there was no sight of him for 2 days. When we were scared, our fellow fishermen folks traced him finally. As We can’t afford to leave the boat as it is, the load in the boat has to be shifted to another bigger one and the problematic boat has to be towed down to the shore. For this, at least 8 to 10 people were needed. Most of our fisherman people had left for fishing, and we were scouting for help. That’s when Pranav sir, who was observing this scene came forward to help us. Though we were reluctant, he was open-minded enough to convince us. Moreover, with a promise of return within 4 hours, the group left to rescue. Unfortunately while shifting the load into the working boat, all were hit by strong winds that collapsed the smaller boat. Unfortunately, along with Pranav sir, one more guy went missing. Our folks tried their best to scout them but ….’
“Pranav is missing” this is the only sentence she absorbs of the total Mary’s explanation.
The moment life snatches the most loved part of you, that’s the point you start wondering why you loved it so much. That’s not a bad realization, in fact, a testimony of how true your love is.
Who thought Leena’s blissful days’ longevity is this short. ‘Pranav is missing’
* * *
Without any lapse of time, Mukund runs through the sections of the newspaper and finally finds the crossword puzzle. The entry query almost stopped his heart. ‘Who is your working partner now?’ he mumbled ‘S A T Y A‘. Before filing up in the paper runs to his desk and starts calling Satya’s number. The line is not reachable !! bangs the phone receiver in frustration and runs back to the corridor and starts filling the puzzle.
In between all this scene, at least a couple of cops and Pranav would have inquired Mukund ‘Sir, anything wrong?‘. Frankly, these words didn’t reach him, his conscious is mostly sucked by a query “what could have happened to Satya?”. He is been to these kinds of situations earlier, even he witnessed few officers losing their lives when captured by the criminals. As expected by him, the result of the puzzle comes up:
‘ S A T Y A IS CAPTURED AT THE R.G.ICE FACTORY, SAVE HIM IF U CAN ‘
Mukund claps to draw everyone into the corridor. “Ahh, 302 the records of CIT hostel students are at my table. Try to run through the puzzles with the details of the students wherever possible. Seek help from the next shift folks as well who are about to attend in an hour.” checks the load of bullets in his gun, it is fully loaded. Hops the van and leaves to ice factory.
In the transit, he calls Prathap who helped him in checking the address of Pranav a few hours back. “Prathap, Mukund here. Listen carefully, Satya is been trapped by an unknown. Location: R.G.Ice Factory. Not sure how many are they and how well they are equipped with. Alert all our folks in that area to reach the place immediately. I am on the way, do join soon”
Mukund is driving like a crazy, cruising through the Shivaji park and beach road across the coastal belt on his way to the ice factory, which pulls off the attention of joggers and walkers on the way. In fact, due to the new year resolution, the number of enthusiastic joggers and walkers are way more than usual in the Shivaji Park and beach today. In a breathing taking space, Mukund reached the ice factory and he is the first one to arrive. The whole place is empty and silent. The area of ice factory location is a sort of isolated jungle running across a mile of distance with multiple pathways to enter and leave.
He quickly jumps off the vehicle and picks up the gun and moves cautiously through the opened main door of the ice factory. Machines are still buzzing and spitting a thick dense smoke. The hissing sound ” ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ” is loudly echoed all over the space. As the blue toned lights covering up the total visual into a blue filtered strip, Mukund vigilantly moving forward by observing every possible property around the place. After covering an odd 100 feet, he started to move at a faster pace in an anticipation of locating someone.
Suddenly hears a man shouting in pain, the intensity of voice stepping up, beat by beat as he runs in the voice source direction. With the buzz of the machines around, it’s a hell out of noises mixing along with the man’s shout. He couldn’t grasp the voice behind the shout to quickly match up with Satya’s. Anxiously he is running with the gun aimed towards his ongoing direction. Finally gets the slight visual of the happening, though it is not completely clear yet. A couple of people are sitting down with their hands possibly tied up and a man is walking in front of them. It is Satya, it looks he caught the couple of suspects who may have a connection with this case. They are tied up and seems beaten up.
Mukund couldn’t talk for few moments. He is intensely gasping and catching up the breath and is a huge relief and joy to see Satya unharmed.
‘Mukund, what’s the matter? Is anything wrong?‘
“Yes it is, till I saw you Satya, as Kristina and other students got the encrypted messages through the puzzles, I received a piece of the puzzle a few minutes back claiming your life is in danger” few more cops join the scene in the meantime.
“It looks a trick to divert us, give me a moment” Mukund picks his mobile to call the Juhu police station landline. “302, is everything alright there?” ‘Yes sir, all is fine‘
“Glad, I think it is reasonable to inform Pranav about his daughter’s death,” Mukund thinks to himself and continues on the phone “alright, get Pranav on the line”
Constable 302 leaves to the corridor to lookout for Pranav and realizes he is not out there. Rushes back and informs in a brisk voice ‘Sir, Pranav is missing’. Amidst mixed emotions, Mukund cuts the call.
Satya inquires, ‘What happened Mukund?‘
“Pranav is Missing?”
- Source of the newspaper puzzles 43%, 6 votes6 votes 43%6 votes - 43% of all votes
- Secret behind Pranav's missing from the police station 36%, 5 votes5 votes 36%5 votes - 36% of all votes
- Backstory of Satya's journey to the ice factory 21%, 3 votes3 votes 21%3 votes - 21% of all votes