[if this is the first time you have landed here, I strongly recommend, you check this out first]
[P.S. This is independent of the choice provided in Chapter Q, haven’t checked it out yet. Do it now.]
Kabir was 31. In those 31 years, he had never traveled further than Muzaffarnagar, his native town. In the past 1 week however, he had almost covered the width and breadth of the country. He hadn’t been sightseeing though. In fact most of his time had been spent in actual traveling than in the actual places. Jaipur, Bangalore and now Guwahati, they had always been behind the killer. This time however, Kabir felt that they had an actual edge.
He was driving back to the airport, along with Bhooshan. The police force had been kind enough to provide them an escort on their way back. Securing Bhooshan, was Kabir’s first priority and once he had made plans for his trip to Delhi, Kabir decided to use the time before the flight to investigate the Travel Lodge.
What Kabir lacked in the intellectual abstractness of Agasthya, he made up for in the rough edge attitude. It didn’t take long for Kabir to break the manager of the Travel Lodge (a simple case of threatening to close down the hotel). The manager told him he was indeed paid by a traveling merchant who stayed in his hotel from time to time to accommodate Bhooshan if he happened to arrive at his doors. He had been given specific instructions to make him stay in room 402, and serviced by a particular staff only. The merchant had told him that he was an old friend of the Professor, and was planning a surprise for him.
The merchant was long gone, but as it turned out Kabir wasn’t really looking for him. When he asked to meet the person who had been assigned to Bhooshan, the manager said that the boy had left owing to a family emergency just this morning. Kabir rightly judged that the man was trying to leave town and got him picked trying to board a bus to Kolkata. Another grueling investigation session ensued (which involved some more physical means), and soon the young boy was spilling his beans too. He revealed that someone had contacted him on phone, and asked him to set up the arrangement for Bhooshan. He also said that he had in fact paid the merchant to act as a proxy, so that the manager could take him more seriously. The idea of the proxy however had come through the strange man himself.
The boy swore he had not received any more instructions apart from that, but was promised that he would be told what to do when the time arrived. When it did, the man had asked him to skip town, which he was trying to do. He was still in possession of the 50,000 INR that the man had given him, and was planning to return to his hometown in Allahabad. One look at those decade old notes of 100, and Kabir knew it was the same man.
The room 402 was ripped apart inch by inch. Kabir even checked out 401 and 403 to be sure, but there was nothing that stood out. No poem, no hints, nothing.
He would have dived deeper, but time constraints didn’t allow it. Bhooshan had to leave for Delhi, and he needed to escort him. He left the remaining of the investigation to the local police, though he was pretty sure they would close the case given there was no actual crime and Kabir wasn’t ready to share the details with them.
All in all, it had been a productive couple of days, Kabir mused to himself. At least they were on the board now. He stuck his neck out from his white ambassador and pulled in the fresh air. That’s when he spotted it. A mini truck almost a kilometer in front of their convoy, hidden by the foliage on side of the road, if it wasn’t for the bumper shining in the sun. By the time Kabir could comprehend the situation, the truck had rammed into the police jeep in front of Kabir’s car. The Jeep flipped over sideways and landed on the other side of the road, the truck however stood in the middle of the road. Instant road-block.
If Kabir hadn’t spotted the truck before hand, he would have crashed into the truck too. Instead he was able to stop the car, a few meters from the truck itself. The jeep behind him, had much more time to react and stopped a few meters short of Kabir’s car. For a moment there was dead silence, as the moment got stuck in time, and Kabir switched his gaze between the truck and the crash. Then he noticed a constable coming out from the jeep behind him. “Maoists”, whispered Bhooshan, and as soon as he said that Kabir heard a single resounding bullet shot and then saw the constable behind him fall to the ground. He also heard the truck’s engine start up again, and watched it back up, cutting an arc so that it could face the ambassador.
The jeep behind him was already back-tracking. They had pulled the dead constable back into the jeep, and were already turning around. Kabir didn’t need any more incentives either. He asked Professor Bhooshan to crouch, into the foot space area. He himself crouched as much as possible while still looking out the windshield. There were no more shots, but Kabir had to be careful. he started the engine again and assessed his situation.
The truck had backed away and was now facing them directly, almost half a kilometer away. Kabir could try to reverse his way, but the truck would eventually catch up and he knew what would happen then. The only way possible was forward. While the truck covered most of the road, Kabir could still squeeze out from the sides, if he timed it well. He gunned the engine, and so did the truck.
400 meters, steady he couldn’t give away his intention just yet. 300 meters, a little bit longer. 200 meteres, Shit the wreckage of the police jeep would be one side where they would intersect. 150 meteres, the truck had realized that and covered the other side. 100 meteres, Kabir had no choice now he had try and squeeze in from the side where the wreck was. 50 meteres, the ambassador was tilted a bit toward the gap between the truck and the wreck, the truck too trying to tilt toward the car looking for contact. 20 meters, Kabir closed his eyes.
Kabir felt 2 jolts, and then he found himself still driving on the road. It all happened in such quick succession, but Kabir knew exactly what had happened. The truck had hit the tail of the car and the ambassador had richoted off the impact toward the wreckage. However it next hit side of the jeep splitsecond later again on the tail, which corrected its course. Kabir could feel the window exploding on either side of him and he knockback that the steering provided but he held on and didn’t take his pedal off the gas. He was on the clear road now. The truck was behind him. He heard a few shots, but he was too far out already.
“Are you alright Bhooshan?”, Kabir looked back into the passenger’s seat. He saw Bhooshan shaken but alive. “Are you alright?”, Kabir asked again. The professor nodded. Kabir nodded back and turned his attention back onto the road. He felt a little trickle of warm blood on his forehead, he must have hit the window on the whiplash. He didn’t feel any pain though. Next stop airport.