We are another step closer today! The hardcopy of my book is now available on Amazon for pre-ordering!
For e-book version on Amazon Kindle & Google Play Books, hang tight and hold your breath!
As the release date comes closer, the time warps and the time seems to crawl. However, moments like these are delightful!
I share with you the cover page of my debut Crime Fiction novel: The Ryders’ Riddance.
Hang on for just a few more weeks until you can lay your hands on this book!
Thank you for all your love and support. Without it, this day could never have been more than a dream.
You know how life is. You meet people you never thought you would and take away from them what you never thought you would.
I, in my life, have been blessed by those who have let me take away values and virtues that have enabled me to complete writing a novel.
As my expression of dedication to each one of those gentle souls, I have named one character in the book after their initials. While I am bound by the limitations on the number of characters I can have in the book and the number of people I can dedicate this book to, I would like to assure you that this list is not exhaustive and I feel terrible for not being able to include them all.
Meanwhile, feel free to browse through the names of my beloved people & their character names:
|1||Abhay Soningra / Ayaan Sayyed / Angela Shao||Ashton See|
|2||Abhinav Umbarje||Alexys Underwood|
|3||Ajinkya Adukia||Alvis Alekseev|
|4||Akash Pol||Aaron Palmer|
|5||Anuja Mulye||Alan Myke|
|6||Bhalala Raj||Benjamin Ryder|
|7||Bhavesh Parmar||Brando Purnell|
|8||Bhavika Shah||Bob Sally|
|9||Chetan Gandhi||Clyde Galloway|
|10||Chetan Vartak||Cristos Viera|
|11||Deeptanshu Thakar||Donnie Trugirl|
|12||Dilip Mulye||Dom Miller|
|13||Dominik Klaus||Darren Knox|
|14||Elesh Mehta||Emily Min|
|15||Emily Coe-Bjorsell||Eliah Cassia-Barrco|
|16||Eugenia D’Amario||Enid Douglas|
|17||Filippo Qiao||Fabian Quine|
|18||Flora Chardigny||Fitz Cresto|
|19||Francisco Santos / Furqan Sayyed||Faye Sebastian|
|20||Garv Gandhi||Glen Gonrow|
|21||Gautam Rajadhyaksha||Gene Rocco|
|22||Geeta Vadhani||Garrey Vicari|
|23||Geoffrey Brown||Gehard Berner|
|24||Gianmarco Clementoni||Graham Carlton|
|25||Gwyneth Perreira||Giuliano Penna|
|26||Hardik Mehta||Husani Maalouf|
|27||Harshad Vadhani||Heike Vicari|
|28||Heena Gandhi||Haemon Gedney|
|29||Jan Otta||Jaffar Osman|
|30||Jasmin Thakar||Jake Trent|
|31||Jessica Thiry||Jurgen Tobias|
|32||JF Mlaki / Jigna Mehta / Jiyaan Mehta||Jeremiah Miko|
|33||Jyothi Bhat||Jacob Barnes|
|34||Kedar Naik||Kimberley Nettle|
|35||Khusbhu Botadra||Kirk Bradford|
|36||Kirtan Mehta||Kris Mahone|
|37||Kunal Sehgal||Kristine Sebastian|
|38||Kushal Dave||Khloe Denver|
|39||Leelavati Vadhani||Lars Vosz|
|40||Lev Fomchenkov||Layton Fishler|
|41||Macher Gabor||Myriam Ginny|
|42||Marta Csaszar||Micah Chambers|
|43||Mayuri Vora||Mario Vaccaro|
|44||Miriam Vergara||Mel Vatican|
|45||Monali Mehta||Merrick Martin|
|46||Mrinmayee Anerao||Mervyn Aubrey|
|47||Namrata Kudav / Nandha Kumar||Nelson Kraft / Nene Kris|
|48||Namrata Vadhani||Nolyn Vicari|
|49||Nandan Chiklikar / NC||Nigel Castillo|
|50||Naveen Narayanan||Nadeel N’Cree|
|51||Nikunj Mehta||Nelson Madden|
|52||Nimish Fadnis||Nicholas Floros|
|53||Parag Shah / Parth Shah / Pranav Shetty||Pauline Salters|
|54||Paras Botadra||Pam Bryan|
|55||Pia Doshi||Prince Dunce|
|56||Piyush Mahendru / Pratham Mehta||Peter Martin|
|57||Prachi Pandya / Pooja Pawar||Petronela Peska|
|58||Praveen Kumar / Prashant Kale||Panlo Kippins|
|59||Rishikesh Ganapathy||Ryan Greg|
|60||Rohit Solanki||Ronald Salters|
|61||Rushabh Doshi||Ricky Dexter|
|62||Rushali Thakar / Robin Tiroloque||Ramsey Towner|
|63||Rutuja Mulye / Rupal Mehta||Rodwell McLarty|
|64||Sagar Raiyani||Samson Ryder|
|65||Sahil Maru / Sushila Mulye||Sugreev Murthy|
|66||Sarfaraz Hussain||Shannon Hoover|
|67||Sergio Cano / Shishir Chitnis||Slade Collymore|
|68||Shilwardhan Wakode||Seline Watt|
|69||Soniya Sanap||Scoville Som|
|70||Sudhir Kedar||Selwyn Karpin|
|71||Sumit Upadhyay||Samuel Underwood|
|72||Sunny Ambekar||Simeon Ang|
|73||Tania Cameron||Ty Colton|
|74||Tanuj Diwate / Tripti Daulatani||Timothy Denver|
|75||Tejarshi Hardas||Tam Heinersdorff|
|76||Uthi Sree||Ulrich Sebastian|
|77||Vaishali Mehta (Doshi, not Mehta)||Vaughn Mills|
|78||Veer Bhalala||Vincenzo Baldwin|
|79||Vidya Mulye||Vestar Marken|
|80||Vidya Rishikesh||Vincent Ryder|
|81||Vikrant Hardas||Vetero Heracio|
|82||Vikrant Naik||Vitus Naim|
|83||Yolande Chen||Yusuf Chandi|
|84||Zachary Smith||Zavier Schutz|
|85||Zuzana Mullerova||Zane Martinez|
- The above list is arranged alphabetically and not in the order of my closeness with them. I do not like Abhay any better than I do Zach. They both suck.
- Some of the characters in the book are short-lived, while some are running the show. Once again, it does not reflect my true admiration and love for the people after whom I have named them.
If you are interested to know more about the character, ask me in the comments! Sending you a lot of love. Hold on to your seats until The Ryders’ Riddance is out in the market for your grab!
Win or Laws
The transition from a mental state of hope to despair was grueling, taxing and exacting. Several years ago, a young woman had decorated opinions about being a lawyer for the National Court, the desire which fueled her zest to outmatch everyone else in her academics. Her career skyrocketed like a space shuttle without sufficient fuel to escape the gravitational force of struggle and rat-race and with an ambition of floating in an eternal weightlessness of success, riches and fame. The community that she grew up in was not encouraging in subjects of academics and career, owing to which Rita was more popular in circles dominated by white men and women. This formed a vital point for her community to issue her a cold disdain.
Couple of years ago, she left her husband for reasons lesser known to the world. Rumours floated around saying that the loss of her baby girl drove the couple apart. However, the rumours were given only the credit that they deserved – not more, not less. Furthermore, her relationships with her friends remained square and invulnerable to her personal circumstances.
The flames of ambition of entering in the circles of the most renowned lawyers and judges were fighting against the storms of ennui and monotony. She was good at what she did – probably the best – but what she did was fight mediocre divorce cases, petty crime cases and cases related to family money that she wished she had, so she could run away and kick a restart to life.
She readied her bag to call it a day, when her boss, the man next to her father showed up at her cubicle. “Got to be somewhere else, champion?”
He always cheered her up. “Yup! Someone is waiting for me tonight and it must be getting cold. I better eat it before it actually does.”
Dan laughed heartily, he always did. “Well, I am sure that your dinner can wait. Come, see me in my cabin.”
They entered in his cabin.
“Here, have a look at this.” Dan slid a file across the metal-top table towards Rita.
Rita browsed through the file and made a mental note of all the key aspects of the case in hand. A murder case of the house-keeper. Time of death – early morning. Place of death – the living room. Potential suspect – Jake Douglas. Rita’s eyes widened. She looked back at Dan with sheer surprise and did little to suppress her shock. “Is this the Jake Douglas?”
“This is the Jake Douglas. The actor from The Night in the Train, The Bridge of the Blacks and Underside of the underside. This is him, Ms. Ferreira.”
Rita, shivering in anticipation. “And you handed his file to me, because?”
“Well, I will take it back this instant unless you hug it to your chest and run away.”
Tears softened her vision as she found this case as a breakthrough for her career. She was convinced that this case could be the fuel that her rocket needs. A case advocating an A-list actor in a murder incident would lift her up to all sorts of media: the newspapers, the TV, Press conferences and everywhere else. Owing to her size, she was in tears again, dreaming about the large area of the pictures that she will dominate.
She ditched her dinner and stayed back, burning the midnight oil. Meticulously, she studied every detail of the case and prepared herself with her meeting with the cop, Mr. Stan Morse later next day.
“Nice to meet you, Ms. Ferreira.”
“Call me Rita, please.”
“Alright. Listen, I don’t think there is any case in this. The housekeeper, an old lady who cannot run or fight back, was killed in the house, where only one man stays and it is that goddamn Jake Douglas.”
Rita did not respond to Stan’s comments. “Thank you for your inputs Mr. Morse, but I will refrain from making judgements at this point.”
Stan took off a bottle from his trousers and popped a pill as casually as candy. “PTSD,” he said. “Those rascals sitting on exorbitantly expensive and ridiculously uncomfortable sofas call it PTSD.”
Rita observed how Stan turned red, veins showed on the top of his balding skull.
“What do they know, eh? They sit in an air-conditioned room, counselling people in what they have never experienced. A fancy degree gives them the right to judge me? Do you know how a war feels like Rita?”
Rita nodded a negative.
“Bring to your eyes your worst nightmare, Rita and tell yourself that it is real. That is what a war is like.”
Rita brought her nightmare to her eyes. Her nightmare was not remotely linked with deaths or violence. Her nightmare was dying or fading away into death without achieving what he has struggled to achieve all her life – fame and respect.
“Anyway, I am sorry for my outburst. It is just these goddamn pills.”
“Assuming that Mr. Jake is innocent, who is in the list of suspects? There is no one in this list I have. Has there been any advancements?”
“None. There is nobody who has entered the house or left the house in the last two days, except for his poor old black lady.”
“Thank you Mr. Morse. I will see you at the court hearing.”
As hard as it was, Rita had to bend over backwards to prevent her affinity to Jake Douglas from coming in her way of her judgements.
“You know you are not a snowflake, right?” Jake’s words hurt like the friction from sandpaper.
“I don’t believe I am, Mr. Jake. But thanks for the reassurance.”
“Ah cut the Mister and Missus crap, already. Let us get me some freedom, alright. Listen, I did not kill this lady at all. Now, go, save me or I will have you cut off from the case and would hire someone more attractive than that ugly ass of yours.”
Rita bottled her ferocity. She felt her affinity for the highly famed actor evaporate like fuel. “The police have found no other suspects as of yet. Little would you know about how things work in the real-life, so let me tell you exactly how this will go down.” Rita was riled up in fury. “There was a murder of a black old lady in your house during ungodly hours. The cameras prove that the only person coming in and out of the house for the last two days was your housekeeper, who is now dead. If your best defense is going to be that ‘I did not do it’, then pray to God that capital punishment is issued to you. That way you will die early and will be saved from the assured defamation that will be launched at you, while you get your ass raped in the city prison.”
Jake stared at Rita, holding his tongue. Rita was hardly sure about the reality anymore. A few nights ago, the idea of defending one of the most popular actors swept her off her feet; now, the same idea brought her back to her feet.
“That is right, Jake. May I now kindly request you to shut your attitude up and let me do my job?”
“Sure,” he murmured. “You being my lawyer, I might as well tell you the truth, Rita.”
“I already know it. What I want to know is why.”
“You know how it is with famous people, Rita? People are greedy around me like it is their lunchtime. Why am I single? It is not my attitude; my attitude is the outcome. I am yet to find someone who loves me for me, not my money, not my fame. This housekeeper duped me into recording some words I spoke while rehearsing an act. She got it doctored and threatened me to go to the court with the tape and shame me for life unless I paid her her ransom.”
“Marvellous. And you decided to just kill her in your own house, with your own hands. Wow. Only if you were as smart as the Jake on TV.”
“Yes. I did it, alright. Because it’s easy. And I’m Jake Douglas. No prick can threaten me into misery.”
Rita prolonged her stare hoping for it to drill a hole through his chest. Emotions aside, Rita. It’s your job. Do it.
“So, you’ll still fight for me? I mean, after knowing that I am the culprit here?”
“I don’t care what happens to this society Jake. This world has showed me only the ugly side of the moon. I am not letting it take away a stepping stone to success, too. I will fight and we will win.” It’s my first and probably the only chance at earning a name that they’ll regret they ever subjected to shame.
“In the meantime, may I tour your house and look for information that could benefit the case?”
The tour took longer than she imagined. Superficially, she crossed ever corridor, every room and every corner to look for loopholes that could be used by the police or the opposite party. Mr. Stan must have taken care of it, she was certain.
A small room at the corner, facing the garden was open and Rita took note of a childish bed with cartoons printed all over them. The size of the bed was too small for Jake to place his head on and she was aware that there isn’t any kid in the house. To crosscheck, she asked and he confirmed.
“There is nothing there, Rita.”
She didn’t listen. She lit the room, the blue and the pink of the walls were coming alive. The walls made her feel confined to the room, crushing her presence between the four walls. Chocolates, comic books, toys and every thing that a kid would fantasise about. Except for one black book.
Jake saw Rita storm out of his house, stomping away. He’d expected worse. “Rita,” he called out, but he got no response. “Rita, you said you don’t care about anyone, right? What’s wrong now? Come back here you-” he held his tongue and witnessed Rita fly away faster than a bird.
A week later, the court hearing began and ended. Jake observed the blinding fury with which Stan interacted with his lawyer. “How could you as a woman?” And “How is it that you could defend a monster like him?” And “Might as well you marry that insensitive son of a bitch!” And “I’ll make sure you end up a big fat black widow!”
The outburst was deafening and nothing like Jake has seen before. Stan’s eyes widened, his face reddened and his limbs shivered. Rita let it all hide under the rug until the jury was out, defending Jake innocent and due to the personal circumstances, the old lady killed herself.
One branch of this success was celebrated by Jake, while the second one was a trade off for fame, name and endless popularity or the lack thereof.
The night following the case, Jake met Rita upon her request. “How can I help Rita? Don’t worry about the payments. They’ve been made and I’ve added 30% as a variable fee.
Rita was drowned in gloom as Jake could sense. She was fumbling in her purse as she spoke. “You think you’ve won, haven’t you?” She pulled out the book she took from Jake’s house. “Yes, I still don’t care about the sorry world that has served to pull my leg every time I climb. But I care about my world.” She shoved the picture from the book on his face.
“This was my world, you god-forsaken son of a bitch!”
It took seconds for Jake to switch to an ’actor’ mode. “Rita, it was all a mistake. I swear I’ve left it all behind. I’ve realised that the more crime I do, the more I’ll end up doing. Believe me, the housekeeper was just there at a wrong time. She wasn’t supposed to come that day.”
A speeding white van came to a screeching halt at he mouth of the alley where they stood. A group of strong men abducted Jake and before he could realise what befell upon him, he was half way to hell.
Rita stood there, welcoming the rain, cleansing her of her sins. With her arms outstretched, she peered through the falling tears of her angel at the sky. “I hope you know that mamma did this for you, baby girl.
The sunlight perforated through the large window that dominated the wall behind his plush leather chair. The humble wooden desk was the only thing in his room that did not comply with the decadence that he had inculcated in his lifestyle. It was not his house, anyway, he always thought, and gave in. A son of the mountains, he had survived the harshness of the savage beauty the mountains had to offer in the Alpine Europe. Facing minimal competition, Jimmy Kew had an easy way into the world until he stepped first in the warmer and a venal part of the globe – Gellet.
Air-conditioning was a must if he had to serve as the Branch Head of a major Multi-National bank, located in Gellet. How he ended up in India still throws him into a state of pondering. Pondering ceases when an illegitimate wealthy bastard comes across his way, to make use of Jimmy’s special services. Struggling to settle at an optimal room temperature, he nudged the Air conditioner every few minutes. However, today, he did not. The room was freezing – cold enough to enable a snow leopard feel comfortable. The only thing colder than the room was Jimmy himself. Dead.
In another part of the city, a real estate agent shut down his office, and examined his new possession in sheer privacy. In midst of the ruckus of the city that bore a population more than that of several countries, and away from the banal misappropriation of funds within the company, right now, he was in a state of zen. He admired wealth like many admired virtues, but he was shy to make a garish display of it. It was best for his profession to look modest. He wore a shabby black suit that fit him not, for it was borrowed from his cousin, starkly opposite in appearance. A face that the world related with humblest of raiment had today chosen an extra-ordinary selection, owing to the rules of the venue he had to attend. “Mr. Harman, you are looking stunning”, is what he heard all day, but he cared least to offer them an explanation to it. He knew that most of the people surrounding him were sycophants, who loved his money more than him. Of what use is money, if you can count it till the last penny? He quickly undressed his suit, unbuttoned his shirt and stared at the marvel that was now under his possession. He understood nothing of it, but he knew how much he paid for it. The overwhelming excitement that stirred a storm within made it harder for him to breathe. It must be the damned tie, he thought. His head started to get lighter, the more he kept his eyes open, so he decided to shut them down. Dizziness took charge. In a span of a few excruciating moments, he found himself lying on the floor of his office, with the shutters down, and the noise of the city drowning his feeble cries for help. This is why I never wear a tie.
Elsewhere in the outskirts of Gellet was someone who wore a suit by choice, and loved it to the skin. High heels that brought up her overall fashion quotient clacked across the hallway as she entered a house – no, a mansion, that lay its foundation on the pile of money stained by the blood and sweat of hundreds and thousands of honest men and women. Who’s fault is that if they consider this living anything but a competition for survival? It was her birthday, and the mansion was swarmed by dozens of men, decorating the walls and the floor and the ceiling and the pictures and the tapestries and the windows. The lady who led the decoration team briefed Mrs. Sharma of the idea that she is putting life into. Resha Sharma was pleased, or so her expression warranted. “You are sweating, Mrs. Sharma.”
“Oh, am I?” Surprised, she ached to reach for her napkin. At the acquisition of which, she ached to bring it up to her face and wipe the sweat off. At the completion of which, she ached to maintain her balance. At the failure of which, she ached to breathe. Succumbing to it, she ached to survive. Failure hit her like a truck. Dead.
“Three dead and counting, Mr. Freemont. Third one was found two days later, when his office shutter was forced open.”
“I hear you, Willy.” Svent Freemont had just returned from a long vacation that the Agency had forced on him. “You need to have a break or we might run a risk of being driven crazy.”
“I feel a little rusty with the practice, I admit. Would you be kind enough to brief me on the details of the deceased while we drive?”
Svent was filled in on the details. “What did you say the third one was doing in his office when he was found dead?”
“It appears that he was looking at a painting.”
They arrived at Mr. Harman’s office. “If not whatever that killed him, cholesterol would have grappled him down, sooner or later,” remarked Willy, finding comfort in blurting silly comments around Svent. Noticing Svent’s expression, Willy slid back into the usual discomfort.
“Why is the painting on the floor?” Freemont began his investigation with the employees that Mr. Harman had working there. The actual painting was cleared away by forensics as evidence.
“It is new, sir. I have never seen this painting before.” The others resounded the comment, and it satisfied Svent’s judgement that the painting was out of place, anyway. Rich, elegant, but out of place. It would rather be well-suited in a plush apartment or anything bigger.
At the mansion of Mrs. Sharma, the decoration was halted, and the mood swayed sharply from joy to despair.
“Where was Mrs. Sharma earlier today?” Willy led the investigation upon Freemont’s order.
A crying lady, her mother, responded, “She had taken off from her work today because it was her birthday.” Sobbing incessantly, the decoration lady picked up from there. “She had told me that she would not be home before lunch, as she had to attend an important event in the south of the city. However, she had dropped this from her purse today. Maybe this is where she had gone today.” The lady handed out a business card.
“Gellet Art Gallery. That is indeed in the south of the city. Thank you.”
Svent had formed an assumption, that would be confirmed only after learning about the death of the third person – Mr. Kew.
His body lay cold as ice on the chair, his face lying on the desk, screaming silently that he did not want to die.
“It is cold up here.”
“We did not touch anything in the room, except that we tried to bring Mr. Kew to life.” An employee at the bank responded. “And we failed,” he said, sinking his head into his chest.
“Was he in the office the entire day?” inquired Svent.
“He is hardly in the office. He is usually with clients or other business meetings.”
“Where was he earlier today?”
Mr. Kew’s secretary sped off to his desk, punched his nervous keys on the computer, fumbling to press the right ones, to open Mr. Kew’s appointment schedule. “It is blank.”
“How is Mr. Kew’s interest in paintings?”
“Oh, excessive. You’d fail to find a piece of wall in his apartment at Malabar Hills! It is covered with paintings – elegant ones at that.”
Svent and Willy headed towards the Gellet Art Gallery, and observed the dismantling of the exhibition that attracted the affluent parties from across the country for the 5-hour event.
The gate-keeper opened his eyes wide at the sight of men in suits and revolvers in their holsters. He ran off to alert the owner of the gallery – Mr. Eliah D’souza. Before the owner could be told about the guests, the detectives were at his door, widening the gate-keeper’s eyes further. Willy thought that his eyes might just pop out if he were to be shocked again.
“I am sorry to bring you some bad news, Mr. D’Souza,” uttered Svent as he approached his Eliah’s desk.
“Call me Eliah, please. And what might that news be?” Eliah gestured at the chairs, and the detectives took the seats. Eliah gestured the gate-keeper to find the door.
Willy pulled out three photographs, and placed them neatly under the owner’s nose. The owner studied the photos carefully.
“What about it?” Not a line or a crease on the aging face of the owner gave way for suspicion.
“Well, we are told that these people had visited the art exhibition early today. And, like you can see, they are lifeless. To cut to the chase, we are here to find out how you defend your innocence, Eliah.”
The assault was direct. Willy observed this to be one of the techniques how guilty criminals could be broken. But here, Svent was of the intention to smash the criminal.
“Defend my innocence?” Eliah laughed mockingly. “I own seven other galleries all across the country. I look after the dealings of millions in cash every single day. Do you know how taxing it gets, Mr. Freemont?”
Silence prevailed. Willy felt the weight from under, now rising on their back.
“I guessed not. If you believe that I am going to spare my time to defend myself over what appears to be a mere co-incidence, then you are mistaken, my sirs.”
“I understand,” Svent remarked, absolutely unsatisfied by the performance. “If you think that we are going to spare our time to dig the culprit out, then apparently, you are are not.” The detectives stood up, greeted superficially.
“One last thing, Eliah. We’d like to meet the artist whose paintings the victims were looking for, please.”
Eliah pulled up a card from his drawer, and allowed the detectives to take leave. “A junior artist, but a highly revolutionary one at that. His paintings are attempting to bring the unethically rich and the wealthy to their knees. Like the Stanleys and the Bradleys and also the McKennys. He was a goddamn minister, who was painted in red. It is marvellous, but he is a junior, still unsure of his footing. He seems to have taken a much bolder move, this time. Go fetch him.”
Willy moved ahead, cursing under his breath, only to find that Svent had taken a smaller pace. Svent was in the gallery, exchanging serious gestures with the gate-keeper, whose eyes seemed to have gotten smaller, and friendlier. Nodding their heads an inch, they moved away.
Svent responded to the curious eyes of Willy that were not able to form the question, with mere smirk.
“The artist goes by the name of Bastian LeMac,” said Willy, with anxiety in his voice. “But, he made a casual welcome to us.”
“Hmm,” responded Svent with a natural coolness, unaffected by the tidings.
“Sir, shall we not question him?”
“He could be the one who killed the victims!” Willy was flabbergasted, thinking that Svent was still in his holiday mood.
“The forensics had called,” Svent replied dispassionately. “They have assigned the cause of the murder to a substance that starts with a letter E. I cared not to remember the fashionable names these scientists give them. Upon a very small research, I found out that this substance is light, almost transparent, and has characteristics of oil.”
“Which could be applied on the paintings, to mimic the features of the oil!”
“Yes, my dear Willy. Now you tell me. Why would a junior artist who is struggling for earning his living want to risk his career and his life, while being at a loss to an ability to escape?”
Willy grunted under his breath. Why does this have to be so complicated sometimes? “Who is it, then? The gate-keeper? The owner? An extra-ordinarily co-incidental suicides?”
Svent smiled. “What is it exactly that you write in your notes? Come, let us go.”
At the art gallery, surrounded by the police, Eliah D’Souza had nowhere to go. His confident and charming appearance had allowed him to go through the scanner undetected once he thought, but he was wrong as pineapple on pizza.
“But sir, how?” Willy at a loss of idea. Although there were as few as these many possible culprits, Willy missed it. “Did the gate-keeper tell you something that I don’t know?”
“The gate-keeper made sure that Eliah was not to leave the gallery. What did Eliah respond when we asked for the painter whose paintings the victims were looking for?”
“The name of the artist.”
“Exactly! If he deals in millions like he said today, and that also across the entire country, how would he readily know which person was looking for which paintings in particular?”
Wide-eyed Willy remarked it as genius. “He had not taken even a minute to ponder over the name. Eliah plotted against the artist! But why?”
“Not our job to find out, I suppose. But I believe that Eliah might be the next rich that Bastian would have thrashed under his paintings.”
The credit for the hubbub was due to the aluminium dishes across the hall, in the hands of murderers, rapists, thieves and con-men, who could barely keep their senses in check, while committing the crime. The meal was not anymore banal than the vapid grey walls that drank the whites from the lights, keeping the monotony of depression within the prison walls alive.
“Two months are up,” whispered Jake, without lifting his gaze from his plate. The listener knew he was being talked to, yet his reaction was absent. “Are we ready, Stuart?”
The deep blue eyes, had a fiery essence to it, barely repressed by the cunning smile that accompanied it. Stuart leered at Jake. “Yes, we are, Jake. I hope you have prepped Mike for this, too.”
“Absolutively, man. I trust in your plan, man. You are a nice guy, but there is nothing like being too cautious, am I not right? So I ask again – is your plan foolproof? Because I’d hate to be caught in the act, and get incarcerated. I’ve heard life in prison is worse than my wife’s chicken soup, and I have eaten that soup and I have been incarcerated; the comparison is only fair.”
“We need to get him to meet up at the yard today. Spread the word. His freedom is near.”
At the yard, the heat did little to energize the labourers, but did largely to deprive them of it. Only if life were as easy as the Shawshank Redemption, Jake thought. Mike huddled up with Stuart and Jake under a shade at the edge of the yard. Mike was a portly man, so much that his belly engendered a large shadow underneath.
“Yo, man. So, we plan to do it tonight, at 23:50. You have the watch safe with you, don’t you? Do you need us to reiterate the procedure?”
“I have the watch and negative, I am confident I will pull this off. My cue will be when I receive the key to my cell tonight. I unlock the cell quietly, without attracting attention, and march to my left, until the end of the row, turn left, towards the cabin of the prison officers. At midnight, the shift changes, and in an orderly fashion, the new officers replace the existing ones. One officer who guards the door will be replaced, too. I have to climb up the wall, plug myself between the two walls with my limbs outstretched and catch the new officer that comes out of that door unawares.”
Jake’s cynicism over Mike’s ability to accomplish the athletics was unrestrained.
“Ha Ha, very funny, Jake. I train cheerleaders for my living.” His gaze shifted at Stuart, now. “If you know what I mean,” he said with a wink.
“Get back to the damned plan!” You sick fuck, Stuart wanted to add.
“Now, I won’t have time to bide, as I’ll have to make the move before the fallen officer is found. Retreating back, walking past the corner through the yard where we are standing right now. It is on me to cross this yard unnoticed. The lights and the guards will notice squat when I make the moves,” he gestured in a ballet move. “At 00:20 sharp, the barbed wires up the guard walls would be deactivated, and will stay the same for a minute, which is my window to make the escape.”
Jake could not hold it back. “Mike, you weigh a hundred kilos and you are barely 5 and a half. I hope you are not overestimating your ability.”
“You don’t trust me.”
“You’re darn right, I don’t. I’d trust better on a dog who claims that he can talk.”
“How about a dog that sniffs and fucks your butt?”
Jake pulled a punch at Mike before Mike’s mouth shut. He fell down instantly, pulled himself up in a jiffy, with movements agile and quick. Stuart knew for certain that Mike would pull this off.
“23:50,” said Stuart, and left along with Jake. “You head to the location I asked you to.”
“If I had a million in my pocket, I’d wager them all on a fiasco that is waiting in the dark only to come out and laugh at us.”
“Enough of your pessimism, Jake,” barked Stuart in a repressed grunt. “I had enough. This will not fail. Your job is to facilitate the key to his cell, on time – not before, not after, on time.”
“Do you rather want to say that this must not fail?”
Stuart had the fire in his eyes all over again. “This will not fail,” he said with sheer deliberation, making sure that the argument is pulled to a halt at that instant.
“How prepared is Tim?”
“I wrote a code for him on the backside of the book that I lent him. That was the only communication that I have had with him. He knows that this must happen tonight. All he has to do is code it on the main computer, and keep it running for exactly a minute, feigning malice in the Head Officer’s computer. He is the IT guy, this must not be a challenge for him. At least not the kind that he cannot handle.”
“Head Officer’s computer?” Jake had his head blown up. His cheeks had turned red. “This is your fuckin’ plan, man? How do you believe that the Head Officer is going to ask for the IT guy at fuckin’ midnight? And tonight?”
Tim’s eyes were swollen, not for the sleepiness, but for the lack of it. He was anticipating a summoning from the Head Office, expecting a solution for the failure of the computer to turn on. They were oblivious to the fact that the problem was a creation of Tim, himself, that he had planted on the computer a fortnight ago. Now was a chance for him to plant the code on the computer and facilitate Mike’s escape. A broad bridge to cross, but what was tough was imminent.
A familiar face stopped by at Stuart’s cell the very next day. “It was you, was it not?” the guard asked Stuart through the vertical bars that separated them.
Stuart spoke not a word for a few moments. His eyes calm as an ocean. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“A computer code, which deactivated the electric barbed wires last night facilitated Mike’s escape. Rings a bell?”
“Kind of. Sounds like poor security to me.”
“Listen to me, Stuart. That you are not a killer, but that you participated in a ploy to kill someone is enough of a reason for you to stay in jail, but if you are caught –”
“I won’t be caught. Not even if you rat me out to your masters.”
The guard stood there in silence, staring at Stuart in despair. “You know you do not deserve to rot in this cell for far too long. Why are you risking a longer term?”
“I am not risking anything. Even if he was to be caught last night, he’d not rat me out. I have a leash on him, that enforces discipline, instills obedience.”
Long fingers of the sun illuminated the prison cell, further illuminating the smile on Stuart’s countenance.
“Stuart, you have a daughter for God’s sake. Don’t you love her enough to want to go back to her sooner than soon?”
The words brewed a storm in an otherwise composed weather, uprooting the composure off Stuart’s face and wreaking havoc within him. He stomped up to the prison bars and grunted with all the strength he could gather. “I am doing all this only for her, do you understand?”
The sudden upsurge of emotions choked the guard’s words at his throat.
“Do you understand, I ask?” Stuart bellowed again, not truly expecting an answer. “Do you know how it feels like to have your daughter raped in broad daylight? Do you know how deep a scar like this can go on her life? Do you, officer?”
The guard felt the small hairs standing up on the back of his neck. Realization arrived at him gently, with the words that Stuart spoke.
“I am doing all this for her, goddammit. What do you know about this escape, eh?”
“That you freed a guilty man, charged of rape.” Cognizance hit him like a truck at full speed. “You,” the guard whispered, and choked. His eyes wide as a planet, hairs stood up as in fear. “You did not free him. You… you freed him.”
“Yes, officer. That is exactly I did. I rid this planet of a scumbag sooner than this frail system of justice could have. With the kind of money that he claimed he swam in, I’d rather eat him up before he was granted bail. And then what? Have another girl abused by his monstrosity? It does not take a scientist to learn that I have committed homicide, but given a chance, I’d do it again, officer. I’d fork that motherfucker’s eyes out alive for the life that he has decided for my little angel. Tell on me, get me hanged, I am telling you I would die in peace, knowing that I have acquired vengeance on my daughter’s abuser and there will be one less son of a bitch out there who’d act that act again.”
A heavy voice came out of the officer’s mouth. “Where is he now?”
“The last cabin on the banks. You’d have enough evidence to identify him.”
The officer walked away, with a confluence of morality and law at his heart. His footsteps sounded as weighty as his heart. For the rest of Stuart’s term, he never saw that officer again.