[if this is the first time you have landed here, I strongly recommend, you check this out first]
Agasthya was feeling the heat and it wasn’t just the Bangalore weather. The first news that his team had got as soon as they had landed at the KIAB International Airport was that Akash Sharma had been found dead in his car. Kabir was baffled, ever since that fateful night the killer has been one step ahead of them at every single turn. Chandra was sure this was the job of a terrorists organization, as only they had the resources to pull of such meticulous kills. Agasthya was not so sure.
The poem, the subtle kills, the targets themselves; all pointed to someone playing a game with them and not a organiztion trying to spread terror. The killer was leading them on. Mocking them on every turn.
At least this had not become a public mockery. Nandakumar’s death was masked as a botched robbery, Salil’s was an accident, even Akash’s death might be recorder as a freak accident. The deaths were too far apart and completely random to anyone who was reading these news in the newspaper. Just like before Akash had neither met Salil or Nandakumar, if he was to guess he would say the three of them hadn’t even heard of each other. They weren’t the pioneers in their field either. Yes they were succesful, but they were always surrounded by peers who outshone them. And yet all three of them had been handpicked for death by this mysterious killer.
The more Agasthya thought about him, the more he was convinced that he was after a mad man. A man who had meticulously planned murders at least months in advance and yet somewhere in his mind had a justification for them. As much Agasthya wanted to capture the murderer, he also wanted to look at his mind, at the mind of this murderer. Agasthya had met terrorists, drug dealers, corrupt officials all with a perverted sense of righteousness. He rarely met a criminal who felt that he had done something wrong. They knew it was illegal, but they never felt it was wrong. He was curious, if The Poet (that’s what the inner circles were calling him) also thought and felt the same.
“I think I might have a lead.”, Chandra broke Agasthya’s train of thought. Agasthya sitting on the passenger’s seat nodded asking him to continue. They were making their way from the Airport to the Police Headquarters. It was a 50 km trip, and they were about halfway through. Chandra hadn’t looked away from his laptop once during that period. If he was inviting him to a conversation this was important.
“From what I can gather, the Poet was able to override Akash’s key, which kept the windows and the door locked.”, Chandra paused, waiting for this partners to absorb the statement. Both Kabir and Agasthya nodded.
“Now Akash’s car is one of those modern ones, which are controlled by a Motherboard.”, Chandra looked around and sensing Kabir was not making any headway, “I mean a chip, I mean its like my laptop, only the chip runs the car instead of the screen.”, Kabir nodded showing his agreement.
“Ok, now to over-ride this chip, you need both technical and mechanical know how. Also this chip cannot be replaced just by opening the hood. A lot of parts of the car need to come out, before that chip can go in. And that can happen only…”, Chandra waited for Kabir to answer for him.
“When the car goes in for repairs.”, Kabir beamed. Agasthya scratched his chin. He could see where Chandra was going, this could really be a proper lead.
“Exactly.”, Chandra exclaimed, “Now every chip also has a log. A simple log of when and what changes were done to the chip on each service. We can use that information to spot the date. Cross reference them with when that car went for services. And wallah we have a lead.”
Kabir nodded in enthusiasm. Agasthya also felt a bit upbeat about this lead. They were finally getting somewhere.
“I will get right on it. As soon as we reach the headquarters.”, Chandra spoke one last time before he glued his eyes back onto the laptop.
True that the game was loaded highly in favor of the killer, and Agasthya was playing catch. But they were getting inside the mind of the murderer now. The poet knew he was being trailed. He read the poem again.
One by one they will fall.
Kings and soldier standing tall.
There will be death, there will be blood.
From their perch into the mud.
Follow me, that’s all you can do.
Try if you will, but he will die too.
Agasthya had almost thrown a wrench in the Poet’s plan once. He wanted to try that again. He turned to Chandra.
“Chandra, the next name that we found on Akash’s body what was it again?”
“Mr. Bhooshan Rastogi. PhD. Professor of Astrophysics IIT Guwahati.”, Chandra replied without looking up.
“Kabir give me your phone. Chandra give me the professor’s number.”, Kabir handed over his mobile quietly but surprised.
Chandra recited the number as Agasthya dialed it in. It was busy. He tried again, still busy. Finally the phone rang on the third try,
“Hello Mr. Bhooshan. I want you to listen to me very carefully.”