فصل 14

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فصل 14

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Chapter fourteen

Kidnap

The car bumped over the rough holes on the Mahabalipuram road out of Madras. di@k sat in the back, uncomfortably squeezed between two men in dirty white shirts and lunghis. Their leader sat in the front seat with the driver and the other man, who had introduced himself as Satish.

‘But this isn’t the way to Kalakshetra Colony,’ di@k protested as they passed the Marundheshwarar temple in Tiruvanmiyur. ‘We’ve passed it already.’

‘We are going somewhere quieter,’ said Satish menacingly. ‘Please do not be alarmed. And don’t even think of trying anything.’

But the palms of di@k’s hands began to sweat as they drove farther and farther out of the city. The two men in the back stank of stale cigarettes, coconut oil pomade and paan. He began to feel sick. And he cursed himself for being so stupid.

As soon as he had returned to Madras, he had called Vish to arrange a meeting. Vish had been unusually polite, even friendly. He had agreed to come to di@k’s room at the club at six the following evening. Instead, he had sent Satish with a message to say that he was unwell but could see di@k at home. The car would take him and bring him back. di@k had been deceived by Satish’s educated accent and smart appearance. Satish had politely held the back door open for him outside the club. He himself had got in next to the driver. Everything seemed so normal and civilised.

But when the car reached the Theosophical Society grounds it slowed down and stopped. The back doors on both sides were thrown open and two men jumped in, one on either side of him. di@k immediately recognised them as his attackers at Nandi Hills. At the same time, their leader got into the front seat beside Satish. di@k had struggled to get out of the car but one of the men pressed something hard and sharp into his side. By then the car was speeding out of the city, and the dark windows made it impossible for him to attract anyone’s attention outside. He had fallen into the trap like an idiot.

The car bumped quickly along the narrow road in the dark. From time to time it slowed to avoid the water lorries, driving towards them at high speed in the middle of the road. Madras is permanently short of water, and water is driven into the city in lorries. But the drivers were often drunk on toddy or arrack and drove with no thought for others, and usually without headlights!

Shortly after passing Cholamandel, the artists’ village, the car turned off left towards the sea along a rough track. It stopped outside a large house overlooking the beach. di@k looked around. There were no other houses in sight.

The house was newly-built, and furnished with all rhe luxury di@k remembered from the Visvanathans apartment in Kalakshetra all those years ago. They had obviously got even richer. He was shown into a large room with a terrace overlooking the sea.

He was left there with the leader guarding the door. It was half an hour before Vish and Molly came into the room. By then he was feeling distinctly nervous.

Vish had put on weight. He waddled heavily into the room. His eyes, mouth and nose were now surrounded by fat. It was as if a small, clever rat sat trapped in the middle of a labyrinth of fleshy folds. His eyes were as sharp and snake-like as ever though, and his mouth wore the unpleasant smile di@k remembered so well, revealing his two large front teeth. Molly too had put on weight, but she dressed to conceal it. The rich Mysore silk sari was carefully folded around her, but even that could not hide the fat backflaps of flesh bulging out between her choli and her waist. She wore more make-up than di@k remembered. But her eyes too shone dangerously, just as they had when he saw her last. If Vish was the rat, she was the snake.

‘So, we meet again. Only this time you’re not any more the boss. In fact, you were never the boss, as you know now. It seems you have been interfering in things which don’t concern you.’

‘Don’t concern me?’ said di@k. ‘I seem to remember I lost my job because of them. And so did some of my friends.’

‘That’s just your imagination. Who will believe you? You’re just trying to find someone to blame.’

‘You’re so pathetic,’ Molly added, in her high-pitched, nasal voice. ‘I suppose you know that none of the staff ever respected you. I can’t say I blame them.’ She flashed a look of pure hatred at him. di@k kept silent, refusing to respond. He wanted to know where all this was leading before he said anything.

Vish spoke again. ‘Anyway, even if you tell what you say you know, what difference will it make to us? Who cares about these things? We’ll just deny it all anyway. And you can’t touch us here. You’re just an interfering foreigner. And I’ve got plenty of friends who can take care of you.’

di@k decided that the time had come to speak. ‘Oh, I think quite a lot of people would be interested, don’t you? There’s John Verghese for a start. I’m sure he’d be pleased to find out who his real parents are. He’d be delighted to know that his mother abandoned him as a baby’

‘You bastard!’ Molly screamed. ‘Do you think I’d let you get away with that?’

di@k suddenly realised that he had won. They did not know he had found out about Molly’s child. They onlv knew about his inquiries into the Hosur factory affair. He had got them in a corner.

‘And I’m sure that Barbara Lennox would be delighted to find out that her husband has been deceiving her for over twenty years,’ di@k went on, ignoring Molly’s explosion of anger. ‘And, don’t you think that the board of directors at Trakton would be interested to find out that you two have stolen enormous sums of company money? And that Lennox knew all about it and did nothing? And I doubt whether even your “friends” would be able to stop a nice juicy story about it in India Today or the Hindu. And I think Trakton has enough high-level contacts to make sure they’d win a case against you in the courts. After all, I calculate you made over two crores out of the Hosur land deal alone. I wonder how much of that went to your friend Lennox? So, I reckon there would be quite a lot of people who would be interested. And you’ve made plenty of enemies over the years. Once you were down, there would be plenty of people ready to kick you. Think about it.’

‘We have already thought about it,’ said Vish, threateningly, ‘and we’ve decided that we can’t let you go around spreading your white man’s dirt about us. You seem to forget that I am a Brahmin. Do you think I can allow a sh@t-face like you to pollute me? You must be out of your mind.’

‘I don’t see that you can do anything to stop me,’ said di@k, but his heart was beginning to beat faster as he said so.

‘Oh no?’ Vish replied, ‘I think it is quite simple to do something. Just step outside for a moment.’

They moved to the terrace. di@k could hear the wind in the palm trees. The waves pounded heavily on the beach below. It was cloudy and pitch dark. He could just make out the white foam capping the waves as they broke.

‘It’s a lovely night for a swim, isn’t it?’ said Vish, menacingly. ‘Of course, the sea is very powerful here. People are always getting carried away. Especially foreign tourists who don’t realise the danger. It’s worse if they’re drunk of course. And you will be drunk. Shankar - come!’

The man with the black and white shoes moved quickly behind di@k and held his arms. The other two men pushed him back into the room and tied him to a chair. Satish stood behind him and pulled his head back. They forced his mouth open and poured in a glass of whisky. He coughed and spluttered, but most of it went down.

‘You always were a heavy drinker, weren’t you?’ came

Molly’s voice from behind him. ‘Such a pity you never learned when to stop… So decadent really’

di@k knew that, if he didn’t speak up now, he was finished. His body would be washed up somewhere down the coast and no-one would ever suspect murder.

‘There’s just one thing,’ he shouted, as the men pulled his head back again. ‘If anything happens to me, one set of the papers containing the evidence will be sent to Trakton. Another set will go to the newspapers. Accidents may happen - but they’d better not happen to me!’

The men suddenly let go of his head. He could not see what was happening but he overheard a confused, whispered discussion in Tamil going on behind him. After what seemed a very long time, Vish waddled round the chair to face him. He leaned towards him with an evil, angry look on his face.

‘All right. You win - today. I’m going to let you go. But just remember, if you tell what you know, I will get you. Because, by then, I will have nothing more to lose. So, my dear “boss”, get to hell out of here, and don’t forget what I’ve told you.’

They took di@k out to the car and pushed him into it. Then they drove off, but not in the direction of Madras. A few kilometres down the road, the car slowed and di@k was pushed out onto the roadside. The car reversed and drove quickly back the way it had come.

di@k slept late the following morning. He had been picked up by a late night hotel tourist bus which had dropped him off in town at eleven in the night. He had taken an auto back to the club, feeling shaken but oddly confident. He tried to call Lakshmi but without success. Then he fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

The following day, he called Ramu and arranged to have lunch with him. Luckily, British Airways had a seat on the next day’s flight to London. He booked it. The rest of the morning he spent in his room, trying to reach Lakshmi. He did not succeed. He hurriedly scribbled her a note, telling her what had happened and reassuring her that he was OK.

In the club dining room, surrounded by white- uniformed waiters, his recent adventure seemed incredible. He told Ramu all about it, and about what he proposed to do next in London. Ramu was, as always, supportive. di@k asked him to continue to try to contact Lakshmi. It was as he was leaving that Ramu mentioned that he himself was considering early retirement.

‘Not like you of course; mine will be voluntary,’ he said with a smile. ‘Only I feel I want to do something on my own. Maybe start my own company, something like that, now that the government economic policy is more liberal, encouraging foreign investment and all that. Why don’t you join me? You’ve got lots of experience, plenty of contacts and you know the Indian scene. We would make highly suitable partners. Think about it.’

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