[if this is the first time you have landed here, I strongly recommend, you check this out first]
Agasthya kept moving in and out of sleep for a while. For the first few times, every time he opened his eyes, they hurt him at the back of his head. Once he woke up to find himself being picked up by a few people before passing out again due to the pain. The next time he woke up, he noticed he wasn’t looking at the sky anymore, and rather a black roof of a car, the jolts had woken him up, but this time his head hurt a little less. He still felt foggy though, and promptly went back to sleep. He woke up a few more times, owing to the jolt, but he couldn’t keep himself awake for more than a few seconds.
The next time, when Agasthya woke up and was able to keep his eyes open, was when he found himself on gurney. He had woken up to a small but regular beep. His first thought was to trace that sound, which he did to a small machine, next to his bed. As he cleared his mind, and collected his thoughts he was able to make out that he was in a hospital. It took another minute for Agasthya to figure out why he was in a hospital. He looked around; he was in a small clean room with white walls. There was window next to his bed, and the afternoon sunlight streamed in. Opposite to him was a brown varnished door, he was alone in the room, so he called out for the nurse. Getting no response, Agasthya fidgeted around, and found a small call-bell hanging next to his bed.
He pressed the button, and waited, soon enough nurse walked in. He had sat up in his bed by the time the nurse arrived. She didn’t look too surprised to see Agasthya up, which told him he hadn’t been away for long, nor was he seriously injured. The nurse calmly checked his pulse, and did some other test before asking him what he wanted. Agasthya had a lot of questions on his mind, but he knew better than to ask them from this nurse.
“Is there someone from the police team, stationed to monitor me?” Agasthya asked the nurse calmly.
“Yes. There is, he has gone out for his lunch break I guess.” the nurse replied with a sigh.
Agasthya nodded, “Could you ask him to contact Kabir. He would know what I am talking about.”
Agasthya spoke as he followed the nurse moving from one side of his bed to the other. He noticed his neck was stiff, but it wasn’t painful. It was another good sign. He had begun to feel his toes and fingers too. They all felt sore because of inactivity, but no real pain. He did have small pang at the back of his head, when he titled his head a little to the left. He cringed, and the nurse who had been doing her work quietly till then, looked up and walked towards him. She checked the bandage that was on his head and commented in a matter of fact way.
“You were hit on the back of your head. There was a fracture and hemorrhage, but no nerve damage, which is great. You were brought in a couple of days ago from Varanasi, and have been out cold but stable for most of the duration.” the nurse completed her monologue, as she checked Agasthya’s bandages and decided to change them.
Agasthya nodded along as the nurse continued with her explanation, “You are in the Army Research and Referral Hospital, Delhi. You were brought in with another victim who is being treated in another wing.” the nurse looked up at Agasthya and sensing the curiosity, pre-empted his question, “I don’t know how he is doing. I don’t work in that wing.” Agasthya nodded in silence again. He would have the fill of his answers soon. “You should rest now”, the nurse said as she started unwrapping Agasthya’s bandages. Agasthya nodded again and closed his eyes off his own accord after a long time.
The next time Agasthya woke up was to a knock. He adjusted his eyes as they opened up to what was now evening. He sat up again, and asked who the knocker was. In reply, Kabir walked in, and as soon as their eyes met they smiled at each other. Kabir was in civilian clothes, jeans, T-Shirt and Sport shoes, and yet there was no mistaken that he was a police officer. Kabir had his left hand slung across his chest wrapped in supporter. Agasthya started to form his question, but Kabir motioned for him to pause with his hands.
Kabir was followed into the room by Chandra. He had his laptop in one hand and a collection of files in the other. He shuffled across to the opposite side to where Kabir was standing, and placed his baggage on the empty table which stood against the wall.
“That table is supposed to be for fruits and flowers.”, Agasthya quipped, for a moment Chandra winced, “But I think I prefer your files Chandra”, Agasthya continued making up. Chandra let out a faint smile, and said, “How are you feeling now?”
“Good enough to know what’s happening. So what’s happening? Brief me”, Agasthya asked curiously shuffling his gaze from Kabir to Chandra.
“Gokul Das is alive.” Kabir took the lead, first answering the question he knew Agathsya was burning up with. “He has a broken left leg, and 3 crushed ribs, but he is alive. He is currently in the opposite wing, under Police protection.”
“The two of you were spotted by some cyclists seconds after the crash. Luckily the engine was damaged enough in the crash, and was no longer functioning. The Petrol tank too was un-damaged. Gokul Das was still conscious when the cyclists pulled him out, but you had passed out and were bleeding from the back of your head”, it was Chandra this time, who spoke while pouring into another one of his files, not bothering to look up.
“You were first treated in BHU’s medical facility. They knew Gokul Das, but as soon as they found your ID, they contacted the police. Fortunately, the right people were alerted and we were able to bring back both of you to Delhi without much hustle bustle.”, Kabir took over from Chandra, “We are all glad that you are safe now.”
“Thanks Kabir. What about Bhooshan?” Agasthya asked slowly digesting the information.
“He is safe too. Much less hurt than Gokul, but shaken none the less. We were attacked by Maoist on our way to Guwahati airport.”
“Paid by ‘The Poet’ I am sure.”
Kabir nodded his head in agreement. “No way to find out, but I am sure it was. Bhooshan is currently at the Army Guest House nearby. Gokul Das would be shifted to the Guest House tomorrow. There was a lot of chatter within the media after his accident. The Bhooshan escape was also pretty well covered, involving the hotel and all. I will give you the details later.”
“The media attention, also made us change our approach a little bit too.” Chandra took over as Kabir paused for his breath. “We had to enlist the help of the Indian Army, as you might have already noticed. We decided to consolidate our position, and make the killer come to us instead of us going to him.”
“So you collected Gokul and Bhooshan into the same place. So that if ‘The Poet’ wants to kill them he has to come to us. But you had to release this information to the media. Under what pretext…?”
“Terrorist attacks. We told them we believe it’s a terror attack, and since all 3 are public figures they gobbled it up.”
“3 I thought we had saved 2.”
“Well we found out who the next victim was.” Kabir spoke out sheepishly.
“Who was it? How did you find out?” Agasthya almost jumped out of his bed. A week earlier, they weren’t able to keep track of the death count, and now they had 3 of ‘The Poet’ victims alive and well. The tables had turned dramatically.
“It was from Gokul Das’s jeep. He had some posters and banners in his JEEP. When we showed them to him, he had no idea what those posters were doing in his car.”
“Karan Khanna. He is a young up and coming Ranjhi cricketer from Delhi. Those posters and banners had his name and slogans, like the ones you would take into a match.”
“Any connections between them or with any earlier victim?”
Kabir shook his head in the negative.
Furrows formed on Agasthya’s forehead as he compiled this new information. “This doesn’t add up. A nuclear scientist, a geologist, an entrepreneur, a scholar, a politician and now a cricketer. Did we find any other clue from Karan’s place about the next victim?”
Once again Kabir shook his head in the negative.
“We didn’t need to. We believe that Karan is the final target.” it was Chandra who spoke this time. His happiness at leaving Agasthya stumped apparent. “Also, we don’t call him ‘The Poet’ any longer. We call him ‘Parshuram’ now.”
“Wait. What? Why?”
“There is something you should see, whenever you are ready.” Chandra said turning around to pick one of his many files.
He turned around to see Agasthya getting up from his bed.
“I am ready now.”