Laila smoothly switched gears amidst the cacophony that resulted from
boisterous clapping and whistling. She had just concluded performing a popular Bollywood song at a cheap local bar packed till capacity with drunken men of all ages. The swift change of the mellowed glow in the room to vibrant poly chromatic pulses made the applause subside as abruptly as it had begun. And the request for an encore died out in the rhythmic beats of the bongo drums. Laila was now gyrating her half exposed svelte figure around the tables. Refills poured in and outstretched arms longed for a touch of her lissome figure. She skillfully collected money from those outstretched arms before offering those customers a clear view of her cleavage followed by a wobble of her derriere.
She was barely eighteen and for the past few months now, she had been performing cabaret at that pub at Vashi in Navi Mumbai. Not that she liked doing that. In fact, she abhorred it. Had it not been for her dreadful past, she would have never entered into a profession of performing in front of inebriated men, especially after being convicted for alleged attempt to smother her tippler father to death on being fed up from his frequent drunken brawls with her mother. Nobody in this new and unknown city knew about it. Except one man.
She had known Wasim since her teens as the only person on whom her mother blindly relied upon. And it was Wasim who had eventually helped her escape from the Juvenile Detention before bringing her to Navi Mumbai. She seemed to be his protégé. But off late, that role was overshadowed by his increasing inclination towards her. She was his paying mistress now. She not only satisfied his wild sexual desires but also handed over a major portion of her weekly earnings in return for the favours he had done for her. Preparing her fake voter ID in the name of Laila Ghatge being just one of them post her escape. Apart from that, he also was the sole communication channel between the mother - daughter duo. He regularly visited Andhra in the pretext of handing over Laila's earnings to her mother and on returning, warned Lailato avoid contacting anybody in Andhra as the police back there are still on the look out for Radhika Narayanan. That was Laila's real name. At the Vashi police station Sub Inspector Anant Singh was pensive over the ever increasing trade of girl trafficking from Mumbai to Gulf countries. Time and again he was checking his mobile, as if expecting a call. Off late, he had started relying more and more on Wasim's tip off's than his own skills. He had met Wasim only once during a routine interrogation related to a serial girl trafficking case and found that the man had more information than any of his own officers. And it was on the basis of that information, had he been able to work on the leads that led to the tracking down of a long time doyen of Mumbai's girl trafficking trade. Since then, Wasim had been his under cover agent, a sort of inside informer, providing all possible clues ranging from venue and time of deportation to the names and contact details of the girls to be trafficked. And over the months, he had observed that the information was almost accurate. But in most cases, that was not serving the desired purpose. It was only instrumental in temporarily preventing those girls from being dumped from frying pan into the fire. Without proper permanent addresses, those poor souls were again handed over to a new clan of Dalla's or agents who claimed to be their local guardians until they succeded in finally trafficking those girls. And, as for the Dalla's taken in custody during such a raid, not much information could be retrieved from them, as they themselves were not aware who was masterminding the operation and who or where their real boss was. Hence, the police was forced to release them post expiration of the stipulated custody period. Except in stray cases, the behemoths of the trade were never brought to light or caught, and they freely continued to expand their bailiwick.
The Sub Inspector had once tried to inquire from Wasim as to how he managed to gather all the information he provided. And Wasim had pertly told him to be content with the fruit and not count the trees. Not that Wasim was himself involved in that heinous crime, but seen from a broader perspective, he was indirectly assisting those Dalla's in getting the fake and forged ID'S prepared for the girls to be trafficked. And that was how he managed to collect those tip off's for the Sub Inspector - a fact, Wasim had kept hidden from the outside world. Only Laila knew about it. In other words, Wasim and Laila had long been hiding each other's secret. And that was why they both wanted the other to be out of their lives. While Wasim had planned to permanently traffick her to Saudi Arabia, Laila on the other hand, had something more heinous on her mind. Finally, the Sub Inspector's mobile buzzed and his facial expressions eased as he pressed it closer to his ears before attending to it. The Titans of the trafficking trade have called for a secret meeting on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi, said Wasim in his usual husky tone, barely louder than a whisper. The items would be showcased and auctioned before being finally trafficked, he added.Now ! that's what you call a perfect tip off, exclaimed the Sub Inspector in his usual baritone. Where and at what time ?, he probed pulling the table calendar closer to his eyes to confirm the date .
Will confirm and convey that on the day itself, remarked Wasim before snapping out the connection.
He had close to forty five hours at his disposal to plan and strategise for his raid operation, thought the Sub Inspector. If Wasim' s tip off turns out to be true, he would make sure that the girl trafficking trade in Mumbai receives the long deserved shot in the arm, either paralysing it completely or making it crippled once and forever, he thoght before proceeding towards the Officer In - Charge's chamber.
How much faith do you have in such a tip off ?, inquired his senior without raising his eyes from the file he was browsing. Almost cent percent !, retorted the Sub Inspector, which made his senior raise the brows and look up to him.You must be aware that a major portion of our force would be deployed all around the city to maintain law and order during such a popular festive occasion, confronted the Senior with a grim look on his face.
The Sub Inspector nodded reluctantly, as if expressing his dissatisfaction before finally moving out. He knew he has to plan the raid operation all by himself.The countdown had begun. Wasim had already struck a deal to trade off Laila. The buyer - a budding trafficker from Saudi, would be coming to Mumbai to make his presence felt at the scheduled secret meeting of the doyens. If Wasim's
deal is finalised, he would forewarn the buyer about the police department's plan to raid that secret meet. If not, then he would simply be inquiring about the venue and time of that secret
meet in the pretext of showcasing Laila at that meet before passing off that information to the Sub Inspector, thought Wasim as he busied himself at giving finishing touches to Laila's new set of ID's. He then picked up a magnifying glass and meticulously observed his craftsmanship for any noticeable flaws. There were none, even for the most discerning eyes. Finally, he pulled open his master file, browsed through the sheets till he found the one in the name of Radhika Narayanan. It had her original contact details along with a blurry thumbnail image from her teens. He plucked out Laila Ghatge's sheet underneath it and replaced it with a fresh dog eared sheet scribbled
with new set of ID details to her name, buyer details and dispatch date, before dumping the file in one of the least suspicious looking corners of the room. He then looked at the plucked out sheet he still held in his hand. The thumbnail image of Laila coupled with the fact that she would be staying at his place on the night before the deal aroused his carnal desires. Unlike her mother, Laila had a soft, supple yet strong figure he thought before fantasizing about her gentle curves, especially her round and firm buttocks. It gave a prolonged erection to his tumescence and wild fancies ran amok in his mind. Laila was off stage for a short break before performing her last number for that night, and probably the last one at that bar, she thought looking around the Manager's window besides the stage. The stage lights had already mellowed down indicating that her last number would be melancholic. And on her way back to the stage, she purposefully slapped a customer before his outstretched hand could reach her bosom. Their was a momentary silence before the infuriated customer started hurling abuses loud enough to draw the Manager's attention. And when asked to apologise, she blatantly refused stating that she would rather quit. She was fired and that was what she wanted, she thought on the way back to the dorm.The following morning she collected her dues from the bar Manager before vacating her dorm.
Dressed in a black abaya with a yashmak she dropped in at pharmacy outlet to purchase a strip of Valium tablets before heading straight to Wasim's house. She handed over her old ID and watched Wasim reduce it to ashes before handing her the new set of ID's. She stared at them for a prolonged moment as if admiring Wasim's craftsmanship. The image was an exact replica of hers and yet looked so different from the small sepia photograph which she carried in her purse. Her attention wasdiverted by sudden buzzing of Wasim's mobile. He spoke something in codes and cleared off the call logs before inching closer towards her and slowly removing the veil over her head. Sensing Wasim's moves, she gave a flirtatious toss to her raven black hair before heading towards the bed to unearth an almost half empty bottle of Blenders Pride whisky from underneath it.
She knew time was running out fast. Her palpitations increased as she discarded the long abaya to reveal the short skimpy dress underneath it. Wasim could hold it no longer and headed straight for the bed. He took a long swig of the whisky, swished it inside his mouth and got busy fondling with Laila's tan skinned body. She offered no resistance and instead, pretended to be more forthcoming. Wasim was three pegs down when his moves lost vigour and control, his eyelids drooped and he slumped on Laila's lap. The Valium tablets have done their job and now it was time to do hers, she thought, quickly putting on her cotton hand gloves and lifting Wasim's head from her lap and making it rest for once over a pillow. Then she swiftly got up and busied herself in wiping off any evidence that might prove her presence, sparing not even Wasim's computer records to her name. Wasim was snoring deeply when she slowly raised another pillow close over his face, and for a split second the dreadful memory of smothering her own father in the same way flashed across her mind before she silenced Wasim forever. She donned her abaya, collected the new ID's and left as unannounced as she had come.
The following morning the Sub Inspector was desperately waiting for Wasim's call when his Senior called for him. He grimaced, before reluctantly making his way to the Senior's room. "What's the status of your raid operation ?" , asked the Senior looking straight at him.
"Just waiting for the final tip off on the venue of that secret meet," he replied.
"There won't be any!" , retorted the Senior. Do you have any other fall back option to bring those perpetrators of heinous trade to justice, asked the Senior before breaking the news of Wasim's unexpected death which almost sweeped the Sub Inspector off his feet. Any hunch or an iota of doubt on anybody, probed the Senior.
"Nope!" replied the Sub Inspector with eyes still wide open. "I wish I'd been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered under mysterious circumstances on the night before the said secret meet of the doyens", he corroborated looking upto his Senior as if expecting an affirmation.
"You are right!", said the Senior. Your presence there would have kept the killer at bay and prevented Wasim's murder, who in turn would have provided us with the much needed leads to raid the secret meet and finally take those doyens in our custody, added the Senior before they headed for the crime spot.
The killer has to be someone who was aware of Wasim's unde
rcover activities of regularly providing tip off's to the police, thought the Sub Inspector as he watched his Senior giving orders to the forensic team to dispatch the body for post mortem. They we
re about to lift the body when the sudden buzz of the mobile inside Wasim's trouser pocket made them stop midways. The Sub Inspector hesitated for a moment before attending the call.
"Hello ! Wasim bhai, I need to speak to my daughter Radhika said a hoarse sounding voice at the other end. Is she there?"
Not as of now, replied the Sub Inspector. But I'll tell her to call you back on this number, he told and disconnected on getting an affirmation.
He checked the contact list on Wasim's mobile in an attempt to find Radhika's number. There was no such name. He checked the call log but it was blank except for the last call which he received. He switched on Wasim's computer but all he could find was the list of girls names and addresses which Wasim used to tip him off from time to time. He began massaging his temples in an attempt to focus, when a protruding bluish edge amidst the pile of newspapers caught his attention. Out of curiosity, he flicked it with his index finger before pulling it out. And out came an entire file with the words 'Master Records' written on it. Serendipity !, he thought and the contents on that dog eared page made it evident that Wasim had planned to trade off Radhika to a Saudi buyer on that very day.
Before he could ponder any further Wasim's phone buzzed again and a different anonymous number flashed on the screen. It could be either Radhika's or the Saudi buyer's number, he wondered and checked with the numbers on that dog eared sheet before finally attending it.
"You pimp, you keep me waiting", hollered the voice at the other
end. Their is no sign of you or your girl. Come fast or I am off to a more important meeting, he barked.
You see, Mr . Abdullah there's a popular festival going on in the city, said the Sub Inspector after a brief pause. All the important landmarks are under strict police surveillance. How about meeting you at hotel Comfort Inn which is in a remote area devoid of any police surveillance ?
Text me the address. I will be there in an hour, replied the Saudi and disconnected.
The Sub Inspector knew what he had to do. He immediately dialled Radhika's father and informed about Wasim's murder before passing on Radhika's number to him and urging him to inform her to be at the Vashi police station. Radhika was restless and nervous as she waited for the train to Daman which was due in an hour. The thought of being at a new place with new set of ID's made her feel better when the sudden buzz of her mobile brought with it a twist in the tail. It was her father's voice and he unfolded the actual story stating that since long Wasim had been her mother's paramour which compelled her father to take recourse to alcohol. The duo had plans to get married and wanted them to be out of their lives. And so they played that ugly game of getting her incarcerated on false charges and then making her escape in order to make those charges appear genuine, while actually threatening her father of dire consequences should he opened up his mouth. Wasim is dead now. There's nothing to fear. Just go the Vashi police station and help the Officers catch hold of your trafficker, said her father emphatically before disconnecting.
The following morning, all the major local dailies published the news of the trafficking racket being busted. Radhika's timely intervention had helped the Sub Inspector to use her as a bait to red handedly arrest Mr. Abdullah who in turn, provided the much n
eeded lead about the venue of the secret meet. The raid opera
tion was successful and he was hailed as a Super Cop. And from the evidences which the police had received coupled with Radhika's statements, Wasim's murder case was closed forever.
Based on the statements from her father and in recognition to the timely help she provided in getting those doyens arrested, the police had waived off Radhika's remaining term at the Juvenile Detention in Andhra. She was free to go back. Whatever guilt and remorse she had for smothering Wasim to death had now been washed away by
sense of freedom and accomplishment. Such a rogue deserved to be killed the way he had been. With her own hands.