The 9 Hour Phone Call
The 9 Hour Phone Call12 mins 24.4K 12 mins 24.4K
Subramanyam(Subbu) is having one of those long calls with his wife. He hated to speak over the phone. When it is his wife it is less of him speaking, still, he hated the torturous three minutes. He always felt like a bomb diffuser who wanted to disconnect the connection before 2:59. Today it is no different, the call timer was showing 2:48 when he quickly said his agreement to whatever his wife has to say which took him to 2:58, and luckily his three-minute rule has not yet be broken. He never expected that day his 3-minute rule is going to be broken. Without realizing, he went back to his ritual of pressing hundreds of buttons on his TV remote.
For a person hating to talk on the phone, Subbu had two phones. He had a justification for that, his company gave him one. Out of nowhere, the phone of Subbu starts ringing. It was an unknown number, Subbu ignores. It rings again, he disconnects again. After the eleventh time, Subbu picks up the call with full of anger. Before he could say hello with pent up anger, the person on the other side tells Subbu that they kidnapped their daughter. Subbu did not know how to respond. The person starts giving directions to Subbu. If you want your kid back don't disconnect the call or tell anyone around you about this call. Subbu did not know what to do or how to proceed. For now, he just wanted to listen to what they have to say and follow their guidelines.
The guy said to Subbu that he does not want to hurt the girl. He said he wants some money that is all. If he gets it, the girl can go, else he has to sell her off. Subbu had just nodded a "Yes" forgetting he is on a call. The guy on the other side shouted at Subbu to agree. Bewildered Subbu said yes, tears rolling from his eyes. He remembered how he forced his daughter to go to a class. Being a Sunday Subbu's daughter wanted to stay home. He wanted the house for himself.
The kidnapper now started giving directions to Subbu on how to get him the money. Subbu was expecting that kidnapper will ask him to bring a bag full of cash and drop in a tree trunk outside the city. But the technology of today is so flexible that none of it is required. He asked Subbu's internet banking details to log in. They checked his account to find an amount close to 25 lakhs. They added a few accounts with the help of Subbu, giving them OTP confirmations. The catch here was that it takes 2 hours for accounts to be active for transfer.
Two hours have passed by and the transfer of 10 lakhs is complete. After that, transactions are failing as the limit for the day is reached. The guy is not worried he is ready to wait. Three hours have gone by, Subbu wanted his wife to be home. But that day is Sunday and she will only come back home at 9 PM and the clock only hit 6 PM. The guy on the other side of the phone knows he needs to keep Subbu busy for this plan to work. He asked Subbu to step out of the house. Subbu thought this could be his chance and he could talk to the watchman and try to get help. But he has to make sure he does not let the guy on the phone. He walked down the lift with his phone in his ear. Everyone in the lift was surprised to see Subbu on phone.
He got into his car in the parking and started to drive. He searched his entire car for some pen and paper to write some notes to give to the watchman. There was none in the car, so he decided to signal something when he sees them. The guy on the phone started to shout again. He asked Subbu to move fast and not waste time. Subbu stepped on the gas. To the utter surprise of Subbu, the doors were wide open. The watchmen were not to be seen. He looked for them and found them lazing on one side having a tea. He wanted to signal them but they did not even look at him.
Subbu connected the phone to Bluetooth and started to get the car on the road. The guy asked Subbu to send his location and started to give him directions. After driving about 2 hours he asked Subbu to stop in front of an ATM. He asked Subbu to go and draw as much as money he can. Subbu thought he got another chance to talk to someone. He stepped out to see the streets are empty. He was disappointed to not find anyone. He walked further to see if he could find the security. He found the guard and he tried to get his attention. But the security guard was so drunk he could not even stand properly. Subbu walked in and drawn 1 lakh from his card. He told the guy that is the limit. When Subbu was putting the money in his pockets he found something he never liked, his second phone.
He got into the car and started the car. The guy on the phone was giving directions to the next destination. Now, Subbu started thinking about how he can make a call with his other phone. He cannot disconnect the call or speak without the kidnapper noticing. He cannot risk losing his daughter. There was also no WhatsApp or any of his family contacts. He found only his father's number in the contacts. He messaged him what is happening and he also messaged not to call him or tell his wife.
Subbu's Dad immediately contacted his other son Ramakrishna, who is an ethical hacker. Ramakrishna immediately started to act. Ramakrishna called the daughter's phone first. As expected it was switched off. He knows the IMEI, as he brought her the phone as a gift. He tracked the phone with the tracker app. He did not call his sister-in-law as advised by his brother. He got into his bike to reach the location. Something stuck him, what if more than one person was involved. So he took the help of his friend, Cybercrime SI. Seeing it was the case of a girl being kidnapped the police jumped in right away.
Subbu has been on the call already now for 6 hours. The time was 9 PM already and his wife would have reached home. He was worried. She will reach home and will find him and their daughter missing. He cannot even have a chance to tell her not to worry. The guy on the phone making Subbu run around the same streets. Subbu understood that this guy is making him waste time on something. Subbu then got a message on the other phone. That was from his brother, telling him about what he is doing. When he heard the phone of his daughter was switched off Subbu got scared again. He, however, got little hope as his brother started to get involved.
Subbu started to recollect how he was angry with his brother for buying his daughter a phone. All the girls in her college have one, but Subbu never wanted his daughter to have one. The phone today proving to be some help made him feel wrong about his earlier decision. The guy on the phone asked Subbu to stop. Subbu was in front of a Pizza Hut. The guy told Subbu to take delivery of a package that was ready in Subbu's name and pay the bill. Subbu picked the parcel. The guy then asked Subbu to start driving. The guy kept directing Subbu to keep moving. In one corner on the way, there was a bicycle. The guy asked Subbu to place the Parcel on the bicycle and not to look back. Subbu placed the parcel and kept looking for anyone around. There were none. He got into the car and kept looking at the bicycle in the mirror until it was no longer visible. No one took the parcel till that point.
It was 10 PM and Subbu was getting very worried about his daughter. He messaged his brother, about what was happening. Subbu told him how he is roaming around the same streets again and again. Ramakrishna understood what was happening, the guy is waiting for the change of date and the transfer limits reset. He messaged Subbu the same. Subbu just hated the bank the first time for this. He just wanted to pay the guy what he wants and get his daughter back. Subbu then got one more message from his brother. The phone is still in the same location and he will reach there in another 1 hour. Subbu looked at the watch a one hour will be11:45 PM.
Subbu kept on driving as the guy directed. He came back to the street where he earlier left the parcel. But the parcel was no longer there on the bicycle. He verified the location given by his brother in the earlier message, the location is not here. He started to worry, what if the phone is thrown somewhere to misdirect. What if they started to move his daughter out of the city or sell her overnight? He needed some hope to tell him otherwise. He at least needed someone to talk to. He received a message on the other phone which was his brother asking him to come quickly to the location. He drove his car fast to the location his brother sent.
The Cybercrime team was searching for the phone in the locality. The locality was very remote and almost felt like a slum. They started doubting themselves. They have little time to start again from start. They split and started to search around. There are many houses and they cannot knock every door at this time at night. They were only knocking on the doors where the lights were lit on.
Subbu reached the location his brother sent. Subbu was asked to remain in the car and continue engaging with the guy. The guy was continuing to give directions without realizing that Subbu's car was stopped. Subbu continued to converse giving confirmation once in a while of moving as the guy said. It was almost 12, at any moment the rest of the money will be transferred. Subbu was waiting for 12 just to give the guy what he wants. Subbu was observing every door the Police or coming out from, expecting to see his daughter coming out behind them. One house after another the daughter was not there to be seen.
The Police were inquiry whoever they can find on the door for any help they could get. No one was able to help. Subbu was eagerly looking at everything happening around. He has seen a nine-year-old standing by the police with a torn shirt. What dragged Subbu's attention was the kid eating the Pizza hut parcel. He immediately messaged his brother about the Pizza and how the kid is holding a similar packet. The brother asked the kid where he got the Pizza and the boy directed them to where he got it.
Subbu did not blink for a second and kept looking at the direction of where the police were. In 2 minutes he heard his brother's voice on the phone. He dropped the call and ran near the house. He started walking into the house fearing the worst. The house was in a dilapidated condition. The fan on the ceiling was hardly moving. There was an old and weak couple sleeping on the floor. They seem to have woken up by the police commotion. He searched for where the police and his brother were. They were talking to a 15-year-old kid in one corner of the house. Subbu was searching for his daughter. She was not there to be seen. He asked his brother what is happening, where is the guy? His brother pointed to the kid they were talking to. Subbu did not understand and he does not want to. He has another important thing to worry about, his daughter. His brother took him out and started to tell him what happened.
The kid does not know where your daughter is or he is not ready to tell us. We might need some more time to get him to tell the full story. Subbu asked again his brother what his happening. Ramakrishna told the full story. The kid stole your kid's phone, before throwing away the SIM took your number. He read about some scam happening on the phone like this before and used your number to get some money. Subbu was not worried about his money he just wanted his daughter. With all the pent up anger, he went to the kid and started to hit him left-right. The kid pleaded innocence. The police had stopped Subbu, as they were worried he will kill the kid. The police told Subbu that they will take the kid to the police station. The brother told Subbu to go home and be with his wife and give her some confidence
Subbu started his car and reached his home. He parked his car and got into the lift and stopped on his floor. He rang the doorbell and the wife came out to open the door. The wife was asking where Subbu has been all evening. She continued I was trying to connect with you all evening. Your phone was also busy, what happened. He was swallowing his sadness trying to tell her what happened. That is when he saw, hiding behind her mother was his daughter crying and saying sorry to her Dad. She said I am sorry Dad I lost my phone and went directly to complain. I did not wait for you to come and pick me at the tuition. Subbu hugged her and cried until there were no tears left. The mom and the daughter did not understand what was happening. Subbu explained what happened all evening and how he had spent 9 hours on the phone. The wife and daughter jokingly asked what about the 3-minute rule and started to burst into laughter. Subbu smiled a little and seeing his daughter's smile started to cry, remembering how he almost lost her.
P.S: The police have enquired about the kid and found out where he transferred the money to and got it back. They came to Subbu and told him to be careful. Next time if someone calls you and tells you anything good or bad over the phone, ask for some proof before proceeding.