[if this is the first time you have landed here, I strongly recommend, you check this out first]
Agasthya wiped his forehead for the nth time. It was like sitting in a car out in the sunlight with its window shut. The only difference was he wasn’t in a car, but a outer border Police Chowki of Jaipur. It had turned out that Dr. Salil Batra was nearer to Jaipur, than he was to Ahmedabad. Agasthya had taken a call and wanted Salil Batra to come to Jaipur instead of Ahmedabad. Not only did it reduce the time where Salil Batra was un-protected, it also threw a wrench in the plans of the killer, if he had plans for Ahmedabad.
He was glad that the council back in Delhi agreed with his assessment. They also trusted his skills enough to handle that case. It came with caveats however. Agasthya had full control of local-police, but not a direct one. He would be assigned a SPOC (Single Point Of Contact) in every City that he visits during his investigation (Agasthya imagined, it would be a CBI representative), and he would translate Agasthya’s orders into specific commands to foot soldiers, keeping them on a need to know basis. Kabir had been assigned as Agasthya’s attaché (not normal procedure, but Delhi Police insisted), he didn’t necessarily dislike his company and was rather pleased that Kabir tagged along. He wasn’t pleased about his 3rd companion though. Chandra from RAW had been assigned to this case. Just like his boss Chandra was secretive and sometimes plain non-cooperative. He was good, Agasthya would give him that, Chandra was a celebrated analyst at RAW, some even called him the Sherlock of data. He was also reporting to him in this case. But Agasthya would have rather had someone who had worked with him in the North East than someone who had been on a desk job for most of his career.
No task came without its challenges however, and Agasthya understood that. One among them was this sauntering stuffy heat, which they had to bear as they waited for Dr. Salil Batra’s convoy. A total of 2 police vans with 8 armed police constables and 2 inspectors had been sent to locate and pick up Dr. Batra. As is most things in India though, that police armada was caught in the complexity of jurisdiction. The border police at Rajasthan highways had held them up for 2 days before allowing them into Rajasthan. That delay could have been catastrophic and Agasthya would have probably lost his temper and those border police their jobs if it had cost them Batra. Fortunately Batra was found in a remote location near one of the heritage sites in Rajasthan.
The Inspector in charge of the escort wasn’t happy that he had to report to Jaipur instead of Ahmedabad, but Agasthya could care less. It had taken quite a bit of diplomatic hand twisting to make Nandakumar’s death look like a botched robbery. The fact that the murder had been so clean allowed Delhi Police to turn the facts the way they wanted to. They also wanted to pin that poor actor Sanjeev, but Kabir made sure they got the 50,000 INR that Sanjeev had got from the killer instead. If Salil Batra died however, and that too under Police scrutiny media might start to take notice, connect dots and ask uncomfortable questions.
Agasthya preferred news agents to be kept away; one they burned out leads before he could get to them; two they were not willing to share info with Agathsya instead saving up for their next big news. More than once Agasthya had arrested a journalist under the National Investigative Agency Bill, in contempt of integrity of the state. He found it hard to work with journalists, and imagined they thought the same of him. But once again Agasthya could care less.
Communication was a pain even in this age, and the convoy had gone through various bouts of radio silence on their trip back to Jaipur. The last communication that they had with the returning convoy was 3 hours ago. That time they had reported they were another 2 hours from their location. Agasthya was mindful of the fact that they were overdue, but this was India, everybody was late.
That’s when the radio chirped in the background. There was some static followed by the –Alpha Bravo Nancy– call out. Agasthya immediately recognised it as one of theirs, the convoy was finally in radio coverage again. The constable sitting next to the radio, looked at Kabir, who had decided to use two chairs as a make shift bed near the only window of the Chowki. Kabir looked at Agasthya and then at Chandra, standing near the door, sighed shook his head and moved towards the radio. He picked up the headset and gave their response call out –John Echo Lima–. The radio responded with some broken chirps, barely understandable, but the speaker on the other end sounded urgent.
Kabir heard the whole thing, and looked a little shocked himself. He asked them to repeat, this time more slowly and calmly. Agasthya stood up, something was wrong, Chandra could sense it too. Chandra walked over to the radio where Kabir was standing and leaned in to hear. By the time Agasthya came around, the message was almost over, but he could make out the last bit.
“Dr. Salil Batra in critical condition, we cannot make it to Jaipur.”