[if this is the first time you have landed here, I strongly recommend, you check this out first]
“One by one they will fall
Kings and soldiers standing tall.
People who once held the wall.
No one will come to their beck and call.
One by one they will fall.”
Agasthya read it, and then re-read it. It was clearly a message, and an omen of things to come. It was also a challenge. But was it a deception? These were the questions that had been floating around in Agasthya’s head ever since Kabir told him of this note. It was still in his mind when he was summoned to the N.I.A headquarters in Delhi, and asked for a debriefing.
It had been 3 days since Dr. Nandakumar was found dead in his mansion in South Delhi. In those 3 days, Agasthya had collected a substantial amount of information, but as for leads he had nothing. He did have a hunch though. And this debriefing was his chance to convince 4 very highly ranked officials sitting in front of him across a simple table in an unremarkable dark room; to believe in his hunch.
“Gentlemen. We know enough of this case, so we will stick to Agasthya’s account during this debriefing”, an old man with a wrinkled face, a starched uniform and bleached white mustache spoke in a very authoritative voice. Agasthya recognized him as the Police Commissioner of Delhi.”We are here to know, what you make of this case Agasthya, so you need not go into every small details.”, he continued looking at Agasthya. Agasthya nodded back, and so did the other 3 in agreement.
“So lets start with suspects. Sanjeev. What do you make of him?”, asked a well dressed bald clean shaved man, from Agasthya’s right. C.B.I chief of operations in Delhi.
“He is a struggling actor, who lives in the suburbs of Laxmi Nagar, East Delhi. He was contacted by someone on phone, and was given almost 50,000 in cash to pull off that stunt. He was given a car number and an address, a knife and the time at which he had to collide with the Police barrier near Dr. Nandakumar’s house. He had to make rest of the story up, and it turned out he was not really a good actor. It was also clear that Sanjeev has never ever heard of Dr. Nandakumar or Dr. Salil Batra, something that a background check and his various Social profiles clearly proves.”
Agasthya paused and looked around. The council nodded again.
“The number he was called from, was a prepaid number used 3 times from different Metro Stations in Delhi. Each time it was used to call Sanjeev, and hasn’t been used since. I have flagged that number to both N.I.A info and Police cyber crimes. But i think that Sim and the phone that used it has already been disposed off.”, Agasthya paused again as he sifted through his notes and settled on the one he was going next on.
“The bank notes given to Sanjeev were untraceable; there were only 100s that too minted during the 90s and none of them were in sequence. If I had to take a guess, I would say that none of the notes came out of an ATM. They are all second-hand notes, painfully collected over a period of time.”
The N.I.A chief, Agasthya’s immediate head out his hand forward asking for Agasthya’s notes. He passed the relevant papers on to him, and waited for him to finish looking through them.
“I see Dr. Salil Batra’s name being used quite a few times here. Any leads on that?”
“Dr. Salil Batra is a celebrated Geologist. He specializes in rocks, strata and soil type. He is currently on a research trip to an unmapped location in Kutch. Necessary precautions has been taken and information has been sent to the doctor’s convoy to return to Ahmadabad and remain in Police Protection.”
“This is Salil Batra’s background check.”, Agasthya stood up and passed a set of stapled sheets to the council. “And this is Nandakumar’s.”, this time he passed around a new set of stapled papers. “There is nothing to suggest that these two knew each other. Nothing. They come from different parts of India. They specialize in different fields. They have not attended any function which involved the other. And this is why I think the killer wanted to make it clear. Or else we would have never known that Salil Batra lived a few blocks away from Nandakumar.”
“This could be a smoke screen for information espionage. That would explain the mobile and cash. Its their mods-operandi”, finally that semi-bald guy who had sat in the center spoke. He was huched over and rested his chin on his meshed fingers as he heard Agasthya’s account. Agasthya knew he belonged to RAW. They had crossed paths before, not all of them had been pleasant.
“That was my initial assessment. But there are 2 points which are lacking in that theory. One: The killer went out of his way to announce a relationship between Salil and Nandakumar, the book, the house, the car; an overkill for a distraction. Two: None of his notes were reported stolen, his assistant testified to that. Unless of course you have something different to tell me.”, Agasthya pointed the question back to its source. He squinted, and replied, “No, of course not.”. Agasthya had stopped taking replies from RAW agents at face value long ago. They always had something to hide.
“So what do you make of it all Agasthya. What is your current assessment.”, asked the N.I.A director again. The Police commissioner nodded in unison, he had the same question in his mind.
“I think this is a hunt. And the killer want us to join in. I think someone has meticulously planned this operation, and is now carrying it out to the T. Each clue that we have has been provided to us. So the killer wants us to notice that’s its not a single one-off murder.”, Agasthya paused to let his words take effect.
“But Salil Batra is still alive. And its already been 3 days.”, said the RAW Agent.
“How do you know that. We haven’ heard from the Police convoy sent to notify him.”, Agasthya caught on to his words, and the RAW agent showed a flicker of embarrassment, and then replied, “We have sources.”, giving away the secret.
Agasthya smiled and shook his head.”That completely unrelated, unimportant and unshared info aside. I think the killer is trying to prove something. He has already proved that he can kill an eminent scientist without being caught. He now wants to prove that he can kill someone with the Police looking out for him. As I said he thinks this is a hunt, and somehow he is making it more interesting.”
“So that gentlemen is my current assessment. I think a serial killer is on the loose. I think Salil Batra’s life is in danger. And I think given the fact that he is also an eminent researcher and an asset to India, the case should fall under N.I.A jurisdiction.”
“You mean yours jurisdiction.”, the RAW agent cut him off. Clearly showing his dissatisfaction at that insinuation.
“Yes, considering the position I am in, I think I may be able to handle it better.”, Agasthya replied calmly.
“That’s enough.”, the Police commissioner cut in before the Raw Agent could reply. “We will take a call on who this case will be assigned to, if at all. All of you will be notified as and when the decision will be taken.”
Agasthya stood up, saluted and started collecting his reports.
“The hunt, that’s a good way to describe it.”, the RAW agent quipped, “Leave them here, I would like to go through them.”. Agasthya looked up at him and then at the N.I.A director, who slightly nodded. Agasthya looked aback at the RAW agent and smiled back, “All yours.”