“It’s my fault. If I hadn’t called him and told about Neel and the letter, he would never have come to see me” she thought, as she sat by his bed four days later. Anita had recommended amputation, and they had done it. He looked different now, as he slept calmly under the effect of the medicine. The dominant yet friendly editor-in-chief Vipin Shukla, looked determined even in his sleep. Cat was miserable. The dream had recurred even the previous night, and she now had lost her sleep. She became lost in her own thoughts.
“Why is your face looking like my dog’s when it sees my neighbor’s poodle? “, asked a voice, breaking her chain of thoughts. She looked to see Vipin awake and staring at her. She looked at him as if he had lost his mind to ask her such an idiotic question.
“Vipin, it is because of me that you are here, in this hospital bed, with one knee amputated. I have a right to be miserable don’t I? “, she countered.
“Oh? You are only miserable? That is fine. I thought you were giving up on investigating who is threatening you. That would be a first, as far as I know. Cat has never given up before, has she? “
“Not yet, but it might happen. This time, whoever they are, they mean business. I want to pursue it, but I also don’t want to see my loved ones being harmed. So…”
“Well, you need to find out, because I did a bit of research before my unfortunate accident, and guess what? Rajan Dey doesn’t have a brother or a sister.”
“What? Then who the hell wants me controlled that badly? Damn it. I am not giving up on this yet. If they want me hurt that badly, then they’ll have to put me in a coffin…before I put them in one.” she said and walked out of the ward.
Atul was talking to Anita near the ICU. They saw her and saw the fire burning in her eyes. Atul had seen her like this before, but Anita hadn’t, and she looked anxious for Cat. Without a word to either of them, Cat stormed out of the hospital and toward her Kinetic in the parking lot. She had gone by the time Atul came dashing out of the busy entrance of the hospital. He searched her favorite haunts, where she usually went when she was feeling down. Luigi’s, Pizza Hut and the children’s park but could not find her there. He was anxiously walking past the big library building when he saw her Kinetic parked there. He ran inside and shouted her name, and was immediately given an answer. “Shh… This is a library. Keep your voice down”, said the librarian.
Atul found her, at the very last table. She was pretending to read a book and made no eye contact with him whatsoever. He was amused to find that the book she was holding was upside-down. He sat down next to her, and waited. As he knew, she started talking within ten minutes. She was never the silent type. She told him what Vipin had told her. “Sometimes, his aides who are very close to him can refer to him as brother, right? It need not be only his real brother Cat”, he said. This seemed to make sense to her. She opened her bag, and took out a wad of sheets. Atul browsed through it and found some information related to Rajan Dey’s known associates. There were some ten there, who looked up for attempting murder. But only two were currently not in prison. Ali Shah and Nadir Mohammed, who were twice sent to prison by Cat for smuggling heroin into the country, had got out on bail three weeks back. “Power of politics always comes in the way”, he thought silently.
Cat was struck with an ominous thought. The possibility that both Ali and Nadir were working together was very remote, yet it was likely. They decided to see if that was the case. They went to Calcutta Jail, to meet the jailer and inquire about the activities of the two during the last two months. The jailer greeted her, and told her that she was quite famous there after the killing of Dey seven months previously. He informed Cat that both Ali and Nadir had been devastated at the loss of Dey but other than the fact that both had obtained bail on the same day three weeks back, they had no contact with each other. In fact, the guard at the exit of the prison had sworn he saw both heading in opposite directions when they had left.
They left the prison, and went to Cat’s home. She took a shower and changed her clothes. Atul did the same. They decided to have an early dinner, and then go back to the hospital. Luigi’s was nearby and they stopped there. They were mulling over what to do next when Luigi brought a note over to her. She was surprised to see that someone knew she was there, since they had decided only on the way to stop there for dinner. The note was short and to the point. It said, “No more warnings.” Cat was furious. Not only did this mean that they really were after her loved ones, it meant that she was being followed without her knowledge. She took her cell, and called someone…left a message on the answering machine. It was nearly half past seven when they left. A cloudy sky that mimicked her mind was now her ceiling. A block behind her, unknown to her, a black Omni slowly followed.
It was early, yet no one was on the streets. They seemed to be staying indoors, after the incidents that took place that week. Cat couldn’t blame them. After all, they had to care for their safety too. They parked in the hospital parking lot and went upstairs. Cat went to Vipin’s room, while Atul to the ICU to see Neel. He would be shifted to Vipin’s room the next day. Vipin was awake, and reading a magazine. When he heard about the events that had transcended that day, he became thoughtful. “Cat, they had three weeks to plan something, even if they didn’t when they were in prison. Don’t rule out that possibility yet. I’ll ask someone to find out who is following you. I have seen that fire in your eyes before, be careful ok? I love you a lot, and care for you.”
She nodded assent, and was going to speak when the nurse came in and asked her to leave. He had to sleep for a while. She went out. Neel was awake, and talking to Atul. He smiled when he saw her through the clear glass of the ICU door. She wanted to go in, but only one person was allowed at a time, so she went to the window and stared outside. The clouds had burst, and it had started to rain quite heavily. Just one streetlight was there, and in that light, she could see two people. A woman and a little girl, both were walking toward the hospital, the girl holding on to her mother’s right hand.
A man came behind the woman and pushed her away, caught the little girl who began to scream. Cat dashed out of the hospital at a run. The Omni skidded to a halt next to the man and he placed the girl inside. The van drove off. The man tried to run, but the woman was trying to hold him. He shook her hand off, and ran. Cat ran after him, but he had disappeared. She looked but she could not find him anywhere. She slowly began to walk back. Another part of her dream now had come true.
Anita’s screams now were echoing through the rain.
“Neetu…..Nee…tu…” she cried, hugging Cat as she now reached her.
(to be continued…)